Shopify recently launched "Handshake", their platform to enable Wholesale buyers and seller on their platform. So we decided to take a look at some possible implications for those who sell coffee or want to sell coffee wholesale.
Back in May of 2019 TechCrunch wrote that Shopify had quietly acquired Handshake, an e-commerce platform for B2B wholesale purchasing. In October of 2020 Shopify announced that they had launched (or perhaps re-launched) "Handshake" as their new wholesale marketplace.
In their words, Handshake "Gives retailers access to tens of thousands of products from handpicked suppliers" from within the existing Shopify ecosystem.
What does this mean for coffee sellers?
Well those looking to sell coffee wholesale have a pretty robust platform do it with.
In terms of what the marketplace, which for now is only available to the U.S., looks like there are already some coffee wholesalers selling through the "Handshake" platform:
Fresh Roasted Coffee appear to already be selling on the market in quantities of up to 5lbs per bag with a minimum order value of about $100 USD.
Shopify appears to be positioning the marketplace as a way for current or new Shopify retailers to source products. Of course this is compelling for wholesalers themselves but it's likely that Shopify sees this more as a step towards vertical integration, keeping retailers within their ecosystem when they look to source products, so they too can try to add value in exchange for a portion of that investment.
Although this has been planned for some time, the timing makes a lot of sense when exploring trends related to a topic that is top of mind for many interested or existing Shopify retailers:
Dropshipping, simply described, is the practice of using companies that will not only sell to retailers in signficant quantities but also handle all aspects of inventory and fulfillment.
It's a common practice for online retailers who focus on marketing and their front end website to sell products, but then turn around and pay another company to handle the actual order and fulfillment.
The "Handshake" market is very different than sourcing a dropshipper, in that the wholesalers, as far as I can tell, will sell to you at scale but they will not handle fulfillment to the ultimate end customer.
That said, those interested in Dropshipping tend to be the sort of potential online retailers who want to focus on building a website and marketing it online, with the actual product development or curation being secondary.
In other words, there's a lot of potential Shopify customers out there would we be game to invest in the website builder if they felt there was an easy way to source products.
Interest in starting a Dropshipping store has been increasing across a variety of product categories.
Coffee is certainly no exception:
On the other hand, many online and in-person Cafés already supplement their business with wholesale partnerships, which means this marketplace could be just as useful and profitable for them.
Further, some Cafés and coffee roasters cultivate partnerships with other local (or "thematically" similar) coffee sellers to pool resources and re-sell each other's coffees.
You see this kind of cross polination of coffee roasters in-person fairly frequently, but it has been - to date - less common to see in online.
Perhaps the biggest opportunity that "Handshake" presents to coffee roasters is to faciliate an online store where you could sell both your own coffee (if you are a roaster) as well as the coffee other similarly minded coffee roasters.
For instance, I could envision an online storefront that specializes just in "decaf", and sources different decaf coffee blends while it focuses on marketing and customer service - with everything tailored towards building an online brand synonmous with great decaf coffee, regardless of who roasted it.