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Roaster’s Site Gets Critical NY Times Review

A Colorado coffee roaster and distributor recently submitted its web site for review by New York Times bloggers and readers, who in turn provided plenty of helpful criticism.

Ryan Wagner and David Richards, owners of Colorado Mountain Coffee, submitted their company’s website to Times contributor and Blue Fountain Media chief executive Gabriel Shaoolian, who offered numerous tips to help the small company stand out more among its peers in the highly competitive coffee market.

colorado mountain coffee websiteThe company’s main selling point is that at higher altitudes — in this case, mountains in Colorado — beans can be roasted quicker and at lower temperatures because of the lower oxygen and air pressure. The company says that allows it to boast very a very complex French roast that maintains more natural flavors.

As part of the Times‘ regular “You’re the Boss” feature for small business owners, Shaloolian offered this criticism

It should come as no surprise that there is plenty of competition in the coffee market. Coffee lovers have proven that they are willing to pay a premium for great coffee — but you have to give them a reason to believe that it really is great. Based on the reactions of You’re the Boss readers, there is only one thing that differentiates Colorado Mountain Coffee from its competition, and that’s the high-altitude roasting. The problem, based on the reader comments, is that the site doesn’t offer convincing evidence that the coffee — which is sold online only — really is better.

Times readers were likewise critical of the site, which features some video elements and allows consumers to buy fresh beans online. But Shaloolian said that may not be enough.

The first rule of e-commerce is that you want people to feel comfortable buying from you. This site doesn’t give you a phone number to call; it doesn’t give you the address of a bricks and mortar store (there isn’t one). It doesn’t give you testimonials from current, satisfied customers. All it does is to assert — without supporting evidence — that coffee roasted at high altitude is better than coffee roasted at sea level. The company, which most visitors have probably never heard of, is asking people to give them their credit card numbers and their money and to trust them that the coffee is great. That’s a lot to ask.

The paper did give the owners — who were grateful for the solicited advice — an opportunity to respond. “We need to better define our sales pitch,” Wagner told the Times. “We need to immediately show why our coffee is better than what a potential customer may already be buying. We will certainly redesign our home page to better focus on our sales pitch and reduce some of the clutter.”

For the full story: New York Times


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