Know Your Market

The Coffee Customer

Understand who your customers are before designing your business. The more you know about the people who may walk into your shop, the more effective your efforts will be to attract and retain repeat business.

Ask yourself: who is (are) the customer(s) for my business? Yes, we realize these are coffee drinkers, but what else do we know about these people? What is their background? Are they traveling to or from work? School? An attraction or event? How old are they, and what are their style, food, and music tastes? What are social issues of particular concern to these people? These are vital factors when understanding a retail coffee market.

Tailoring a business model to the local community is an intelligent approach. Consider the coffee shop at the base of an office building with a steady pedestrian traffic of white-collar workers. Use the demographics, traffic patterns, and interests of potential customers to attract them creatively.

Understanding the market will also help with promotions and to determine how to communicate with customers. Is social media the best way to reach new customers or knock on the office door with free coffee? A narrowly targeted approach is best.

Retail Coffee Market Competition

Is your only competitor that big-name coffee chain store around the corner? Think again.

Competition may be found in your retail coffee market that you may not expect. The local restaurant, fast food business, convenience store, gas station, and even your consumer’s own home! With competition from sources of coffee and other beverages, it is essential to send a clear message of differentiation.


  • The convenience of a location. How easy is the product to access? Are there barriers to prevent a consumer from visiting the retail area? For example, an inconvenient unprotected left turn from their everyday morning commute? Also, in this category, consider the standard speed of service. Be sure that the speed of service presents a manageable obstacle for the customer.
  • Consistency of the experience. Consistency is the most essential criterion identified here and the central foundation of any brand. Studies have shown that consumers would rather know what to expect than risk an unknown product. 
  • Quality of the product. Not everyone is a coffee expert; consumers prefer those things they know. That aside, following best industry practices for coffee quality and beverage preparation improves likability. Beverages that are sweet and balanced with coffees free of defects are generally preferred. Work with a skilled artisanal roaster and develop a palate of flavors for your local consumers. Next, prepare your beverages using brewing standards established by the SCA and others. Cutting corners on coffee quality or espresso brewing might save a few pennies, but it will cost dollars.
  • Cleanliness of the location. This is simple and objective. Everyone prefers a clean environment. Remember, cleanliness does not sacrifice the ability to personalize a space or inhibit free expression. Make sure to distinguish a clean environment from a sterile one.