After working so hard to supply food during lockdown, no enterprise wants to see their sales go back to pre-Covid levels. But as lockdown lifts, some customers may be returning to previous buying behaviours, like shopping in supermarkets. 

So how do we encourage these customers to stay?

Like you – and like many of your customers – we don’t want everything to return to ‘normal’. We want better. We want to see a resilient local food economy with social and ecological health at its core. So here is a breakdown of how to gain your customers’ loyalty and ultimately help them commit to a better food system.


Help your customer feel they belong. 


Belonging is a core motivation and a foundational human need which we all strive for (see “Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs” diagram to the right). For this reason ‘hyper-empowered’ customers, who are faced with so much choice, show little loyalty to businesses unless they feel they belong to something.

Here are three steps to help your customer feel they belong: 


Help your customers feel they are part of something bigger (e.g. the alternative food movement). 

Show your customers you share the same values and care about the same issues they do. The reward for this is highly engaged advocates for your business who naturally will want to shop with you. 

To start, get clear on the core principles which guide you and your business. Click here or on the ‘core values exercise’ box below to download a simple exercise to get started. 

Then, once you are finished with this exercise, get clear on what issues you authentically identify with as a business. Agree as a team on which issues to align yourself with and how you will communicate this. Don’t be afraid to express what you believe in. But if you are uncomfortable speaking on a topic yourself, you can share, re-gram or retweet others’ posts instead. 

In the long run, sharing your values with your customers leads to a deeper emotional attachment which generates more customer loyalty. 


Help your customers feel they are understood

Due to the pandemic many people tried a veg box scheme or ordered food from a local farm or producer for the very first time. But, despite what John Humphreys believes we don’t need a catastrophe to persuade people to pay more for sustainable food. With local options in many cases cheaper than the supermarkets, it’s not all about price. 

It is important to realise that buying behaviours are rooted in identity. If we want to change the food system on a wider scale, we need more people to feel like local, sustainable, healthy and well-farmed food is for them too. In other words, to convince our new customers to stay we must help them feel they belong.

Any messaging which suggests people need to value and pay more for food is really only aimed at the people who can easily pay more. For everyone else, it can be ostracising as it subtly shames them for their buying choices. We can’t blame consumers for their buying habits as it is not your customer’s responsibility to shoulder the blame for a food system they have been groomed to support. 

In the words of the great Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” With this wisdom in mind, we don’t want to shame people who have just had their first veg box for not normally buying this way. If we want to generate a sense of belonging and customer loyalty, then we want all of our customers to feel valued, respected and understood.

In a like manner, make it as clear as possible how to buy from you as no one wants to feel confused or stupid! You make think it’s obvious, but there is a very real block for the consumer to try something new and buy in a different way. A quick tip for this is to explain the process clearly using three stages. For example:

  • Step one: Visit our online shop here: (URL)
  • Step two: Place your order and checkout.
  • Step three: Collect your delicious fresh veg on (date) from here (address). (Add some simple details about what they do when they arrive).


Get your messaging right

This is a big topic which we are going to cover in more detail in this week’s marketing hub webinar, so let’s stick to some simple suggestions here. Here are three steps to get started with straight away:


Step one: Understand your customer.

What’s your customers’ number one concern right now? Show your customers you know who they are and you care about them by addressing what they are struggling with. For example: 

“We know finding locally grown food can sometimes be a challenge.”

“Are you bored of unripe, over-refrigerated and nutrient-deficient vegetables?”

“Like you, we were frustrated with tasteless veg from our local supermarket.”


Step two: Centre your customer

Your customer wants to know what you can do for them. So, describe how you help with their relevant problem. Celebrate the benefits you offer your customer. For extra points, you can do this through celebrating your customers stories. You can do this by using any testimonials, reviews or positive feedback stories which describe your benefits.


Step three: Keep it clear

This applies to everything as a confused customer will not engage with you or buy from you. It helps to have a simple mission statement which describes who you are, what you do and who you serve. 

Equally important, make sure you have a clear call to action for your customer to follow. For example: “buy now” or “order here” (with a link).


To generate belonging, it is important the people you want to reach both understand and resonate with your messaging. With this in mind, consider what they need or want as well as thinking about what you want them to know about you. Make it as easy as you can for your customers to see what they would gain from continuing to buy from your food enterprise – and enable them to do so.

If you want to learn more on this topic, join us on Wednesday at 4.30pm for our next webinar: “How to master your messaging to gain and retain loyal customers for your food enterprise.” You can find more details and a link to join in our Facebook Marketing Hub Group.

In the meantime, here is a great video example of messaging-mastery from Better Food Traders who want to inspire more people to #committoabetterfoodsystem. You can like and share this video on facebook to spread the word.



Moreover, with supreme generosity and with the vision of a better food system, Better Food Traders have offered OFN food hubs the opportunity to personalise this video with your own message for your customers.

Join us for the next webinar if you are interested in learning how to do this.

Kayleigh Reed