year-on-year increase in conversion rates since 2017
Hotel Chocolat accelerates its global ambitions with Salesforce.
From luxury chocolates, boxed collections, biscuits, and beauty to ice lollies, drinks, and subscriptions galore, British chocolatier Hotel Chocolat has built a successful business on the humble cacao bean, with revenues of £165 million as of June 2021. But Hotel Chocolat isn’t just about great products, it’s about memorable experiences. From virtual tastings to children’s workshops, Hotel Chocolat has taken our love affair with chocolate to a whole new level.
The premium chocolate brand is so confident you will love the Hotel Chocolat experience that it offers a 100% happiness guarantee. “We want to provide people with a sense of escapism and luxury,” said Angus Thirlwell, Hotel Chocolat CEO. “Chocolate can lift our spirits, especially during difficult times. With Salesforce, we can bring chocolate happiness to more customers.”
This happiness is increasingly being delivered through digital channels. “The numbers are quite breath-taking. We have tripled the size of our digital business since COVID-19 hit in March 2020 and have achieved five years of growth within the last year,” said Martin Bell, Ecommerce Director for Hotel Chocolat. “With Salesforce B2C Commerce, we can keep scaling and enriching the digital experience to meet rising demand from our customers.”
Hotel Chocolat boosts online conversion rates and order values.
Although the shift to digital was accelerated by the temporary closure of Hotel Chocolat’s 140-plus UK stores during the COVID-19 pandemic, online channels are set to stay. According to Salesforce’s State of Commerce Report 2020, 56% of organisations expect the majority of their revenue to come from digital channels within the next three years. And that means digital channels need to offer great experiences, deliver rich insights, and ultimately boost sales.
Hotel Chocolat has been using Salesforce Commerce Cloud to tick all these boxes since 2017. As a result, online conversion rates have risen by 60% year-on-year. “Our previous ecommerce platform didn’t have the flexibility to support our growth ambitions to become a global lifestyle brand,” said Bell. “With Commerce Cloud, we are set up for future success.”
Making chocolate more sustainable and ethical.
Thirlwell co-founded Hotel Chocolat in 2004 with a £10,000 loan; it sparked a revolution in British chocolate based on originality and authenticity. “Right from the start, we’ve never played by the rules of what people said a chocolate company should be,” said Thirlwell. “Our brand mantra is ‘more cacao, less sugar’, which gives our products their superior taste.”
Hotel Chocolat sources its cocoa from its own organic eco-conscious estate in Saint Lucia as well as hundreds of growers around the world. And it’s 100% ethical – from the roots to the wrapper. “Our objective is to ensure that cacao farming is economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable,” said Thirlwell. “We want to ensure that the growers of this magic ingredient are respected.”
The company’s Engaged Ethics programme has helped to transform the lives of hundreds of farmers by ensuring they get a fair deal. But this is just one of Hotel Chocolat’s sustainable business goals. It also promotes ‘climate smart’ farming methods and has pledged to make all its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2022. “We have a deep sense of fairness that extends to our farmers, our customers, and future generations,” added Thirlwell.
Personalised product recommendations generate 44% of online revenue.
It’s principles like these that are helping to expand the Hotel Chocolat fan base. Between December 2019 and June 2021, the UK customer database increased by 66%. The retailer also boosted its customer database by 170% in the US, and 900% in Japan during the second half of 2020.
With more customers – old and new – shopping online, Hotel Chocolat needs to ensure its unique in-store experience is reflected on its digital channels. “When you visit a store, you can sample our products and chat to our team,” said Steven McGennity, Digital Trading Manager at Hotel Chocolat. “With Salesforce B2C Commerce, we can create more connected and personalised digital experiences.”
Hotel Chocolat uses Einstein AI for Commerce to provide customers with personalised product recommendations based on their browsing history. Around 44% of its online revenue is now generated from customers interacting with these recommendations during their journey. It also uses Einstein to personalise sorting orders on category list pages. “By tracking how customers respond, we can keep improving the logic behind our personalisation strategy,” added McGennity.
A subscription model boosts customer retention.
Hotel Chocolat didn’t just attract new customers and sales during the pandemic, it also launched new products and subscriptions to keep chocolate flowing into our homes. “People wanted to buy things that made them feel better. Since its launch, the Velvetiser, our in-home barista-grade hot chocolate machine, has been a massive hit with our customers,” said Bell. “The refill subscriptions are a great way to retain customers and increase the frequency of purchase.”
To support its subscription model, Hotel Chocolat has integrated Commerce Cloud with Ordergroove, a Salesforce AppExchange solution. It has also integrated Klarna Checkout to offer customers more flexible payment options. “The pandemic sparked a massive investment in digital at Hotel Chocolat,” said Bell. “With Salesforce B2C Commerce, we can continue to innovate and encourage more consumers to interact with our brand.”
The retailer works with Salesforce partner, Capgemini, on its digital roadmap and leverages Salesforce Accelerators to stay agile and ahead of the changing business needs and customer demands. “Salesforce B2C Commerce offers lots of great features out of the box but it’s also easy to customise,” said McGennity. “We do a sprint every two weeks and can preview changes on our staging site and run user acceptance testing.”
Hotel Chocolat adapts to meet demand during pandemic.
Although Hotel Chocolat was able to adapt its omnichannel approach to maximise customer engagement and sales, the pandemic was not without its challenges. Its warehouse had to prioritise ecommerce sales overnight – and there were a lot of sales. “As a result of our business agility, we were able to significantly increase the number of parcels we were able to fulfil daily,” said Bell.
New SEO terms, promotional codes, and marketing campaigns can also be added with minimal effort and disruption. “We can update a web page within a couple of minutes,” said Jack Leaper, Digital Marketing Manager at Hotel Chocolat. “Commerce Cloud empowers our team and maximises our marketing resources.” An integration with the retailer’s CRM platform enables the marketing team to personalise emails as well as campaign landing pages.
Empowering chocolate fans to share their feedback.
Hotel Chocolat also engages with customers via its VIP.ME loyalty programme and mobile app, which is integrated with Commerce Cloud to enable a seamless checkout process. Customer reviews of Hotel Chocolat products are captured through an integration with Bazaarvoice.
Chocolate fans get to share their views on new concepts and recipes as part of the Inventing Room subscription, which provides customers with exclusive access to products before they are launched. “Customer feedback is important to us – whether it’s about a new recipe or a new online feature,” said Bell. “With Salesforce B2C Commerce, we can showcase customer reviews alongside products to help chocolate fans make more informed choices.”
Hotel Chocolat maximises engagement on digital and physical channels.
Although digitals channels increased in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hotel Chocolat still wants to drive customers to its physical locations, which include 42 drinks and ices cafés, a unique London restaurant with a bar, café, and terrace overlooking the bustling Borough Market, and a hotel in Saint Lucia that sits at the heart of a 275-year-old sustainable cacao farm. The website enables visitors to seamlessly explore the entire Hotel Chocolat brand, for example they can search for nearby locations, schedule click and collect slots, and make restaurant reservations through an integration with OpenTable.
“With Salesforce B2C Commerce, we can establish an effective omnichannel strategy that provides our customers with choice and convenience,” said Bell. “We want to make it easy for people to indulge in their passion for chocolate by providing a seamless experience across all customer touchpoints.”
Tracking performance and ecommerce trends to drive smarter decision-making.
As Hotel Chocolat enriches the digital experience with more features and products, it needs to understand how customers are responding. “The weekly trading report from Salesforce B2C Commerce shows if we are hitting our targets and benchmarks our performance against our peers,” said McGennity. “We want to be the number one for selling premium chocolate online and number one for gifting.”
Gifting already accounts for 50% of orders during peak shopping periods. To boost this even further, Hotel Chocolat has introduced a unique ‘Instant Gifts by Text’ service, which is offered as an option at checkout and has become a popular choice for customers buying last-minute gifts. Customers can also build bespoke Hotel Chocolat hampers and place volume corporate orders.
Hotel Chocolat builds a global fan base with Salesforce.
Innovations like these will help Hotel Chocolat to attract more customers to its digital channels and set more trading records. “We’ve stress-tested our site for peak volumes and never had any problems; Commerce Cloud always rises to the challenge,” added Bell.
As Hotel Chocolat increasingly engages with customers across multiple digital and physical channels, it wants to empower its teams with 360-degree visibility. “We want to see every interaction at every stage of the journey, so we can unlock sharper insights and deliver richer experiences,” said Bell. “With Salesforce, we can keep delighting customers and connect with more chocolate lovers around the world.”