Tips For a Great Online Food Shopping Experience - Even When You Fail

Don't leave your message to the developers who build your website or set up your Wordpress blog, in which you can add e-commerce functionality.

Too many websites have short, geeky, sometimes even offensive messages making the customer feel bad when a page isn't found. Luckily, these days, many take the chance to entertain with their "404 server down" pages.

Turn Your Online Store 404 Outage Pages Into Selling Opportunities site down page
When your website is down, you've got an opportunity to connect with customers and make them happy.


When's site was down, their "under maintenance" page offered up some smart content. This was very smart, since so many visitors will be having a first-time experience. And as they say, first impressions mean everything.

The outage page included:

  • an informational video explaining to people what the company is all about — which is especially important in's goal to go head-to-head with Amazon
  • a phone number and other alternative contact information. When I called, a rep answered after one ring.
  • a prompt to wait around until the site is back up, with a link to easily re-load the page.

While I did want to shop, at least they began building a relationship much as a AAA tow-truck driver may be your first touch-point with the American Automobile Association.

It's not rocket science at all. E-commerce systems like Shopify and Wordpress make it really simple to customize your pages and emails. People like me make it easy to write fun copy that will engage your visitors.

Give Online Shoppers a Next Step - Not a Dead End

Williams-Sonoma online store
Give online shppers a path to browse and discover based on their interests. Williams-Sonoma

Create an immersive experience.

It's not surprising that Williams-Sonoma's online shopping experience is as immersive and enjoyable as their brick-and-mortar retail stores, both in terms of visual appeal and the online store functionality.

When your online store has a big catalog, you should take advantage of e-commerce system features to cross-promote other related products and show you what's popular with people with similar tastes. 

Make your online experience feel like a store: Imagine yourself browsing through a clothing or hardware store, or even a mass-merchandiser like Target. You run into interesting products at every turn. 

Do this: Even low-cost hosted ecommerce systems like Bigcommerce have features that look like you spent thousands. When comparing options for an online shopping platform, be sure there are easy and full-featured cross-sell and recommendation features.

If you're just selling a little online and don't want to pay a monthly hosting fee, WooCommerce with Wordpress is a remarkable option that thousands of online shops depend on. (You may end up spending more on upfront set-up labor. Get in touch if you need help.)

Connect Your Online Shopping With Your Retail Experiences

Suzy Q Doughnuts store built on Shopify
Suzy Q Doughnut Store offers many ways for customers to contact them. Suzy Q Doughnuts

Make your products and services irresistible.

A Canadian doughnut company worked with Shopify and a design firm to turn its online doughnut ordering system into a gallery of fried food porn that nearly looks better than seeing the donuts in person.

The real secret sauce (or glaze) here is the game-like interface for adding doughnuts to the order — which drops each doughnut into a virtual box.

Do this: Talk to a professional web design and development company before deciding to go it yourself. Take a look at the story behind the Suzy Q website, and you'll see how small touches can increase sales, whether for local online shoppers or folks who will be receiving your goodies by mail. 

For Suzy Q, the developers had the clever idea to illuminate the doughnuts and place the photos against back to make them literally shine. Small touches like this can make all the difference in sales, especially when it comes to food.

Write Awesome Emails For Every Customer Interaction Scenario

Overstock order confirmation
In order confirmation emails, think beyond the order confirmation. Overstock

Plan your emails to engage, inform and bring customers to the next step that will lead to their satisfaction. 

Email Marketing is Almost Too Easy

Email system like Mailchimp and Aweber make it so easy to automate communications with customers and build a relationship over time. Forms you can embed in your website can then get the right emails to customers.

Your business customers can hear about your corporate gifts. Consumers will  separate from your consumer foods or services.

Avoid Email Overload

Give customers a heads up on how often you'll be contacting them. When someone unsubscribes, you really don't need to send them an email saying they unsubscribed. We have faith.  

Really don't do this: Some e-commerce / email systems let you send an automated email to visitors who have browsed but not not bought. Don't. It's creepy and invasive. Sort of like a store staffer chasing a customer into the parking lot.

It's all really commonsense. 

A Marketing Copywriter Can Help

One of my clients ordered some packaged food online for her parents. What did the confirmation email say? "Your order has been flagged as possibly fraudulent!" FAIL.

Automating such a message without a human reviewing the order was a big mistake. This order was shipping within the same state to people with the same last name. Freaking out the customer led her to cancel and, worse yet, tell everyone the story. 

Creating a customer experience and writing copy that you would enjoy will lead to a lot more sales than bells, whistles and strange messages. 

Key Steps In Online Experience Planning

  • identify customers and their shopping scenarios
  • review your online buying and service policies
  • identify customer touchpoints during the marketing and sales process
  • create a hierarchy of messages on the website and within the emails
  • figure out the next step a customer may want to take, online, in mobile shopping and in emails

These are the steps I take to help clients plan messaging / positioning, write their website copy and automated emails.

A little planning to thrill your online visitors and customers is a smart investment that keeps paying off, once the systems are all automated.