Pong Cheese MD: How to maximise online experience

14 May 2021, 07:41 AM
  • Mathew March Smith, the owner of online cheesemonger Pong Cheese, shares how he has perfected the art of selling cheese online – with no help from samples or smells
Pong Cheese MD: How to maximise online experience

If a food product is being sold online, in the absence of other sensory stimulation, the retailer must get two things perfectly right: imagery and copy. Most importantly, the customer’s journey does not begin on the product page. It starts maybe offline or from a search or display advertising on an affiliate site, or more often than not on social media. The images and copy of each product then need to convey how great the cheese is from the beginning of that journey, but they also need to create an excitement and an interest that draws the customer to the point of conversion.

Our company name and brand were created from my recollections of the strong aroma that enveloped me as a small boy when we visited the Oxfordshire shop of British cheese legend Patrick Rance. If ever there was a real-world example of how to sell cheese in a bricks and mortar, offline shop it was there. However, the smell and the sites of the glorious cheeses that were laid out on trestle tables cannot be transferred to a web site, so we must create a context for each cheese as close to that visceral reality as possible.

Every cheese we sell has a story behind it: whether it is the history of the multiple generations of the family that make it (as with Cashel Blue) or the pear used in the wash on the rind (Stinking Bishop) or the fact that the producer used to be a biochemist before experimenting with cheese (Anne Wigmore at Village Maid). These stories are all exciting and fascinating and indeed, in the same way ‘terroir’ gives a context to great wines, the stories and certain environmental factors give a context to a great cheese. It is this context that we are selling online in the absence of smell and taste.

Members of the Pong Cheese Club receive a monthly box that contains four to five cheeses, but we ensure every single one has either an interesting look, flavour, origin or story behind its production. The tasting notes in each box mean the customer whose journey may have began with a post on social media and followed their virtual nose all the way to subscription gets the ultimate fulfilment when they read the full story and eventually get to smell and taste it.

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