When direct-to-consumer premium chocolate brand Hotel Chocolat had to shut its stores during lockdown it lost one of its key abilities for gaining new customers – the sensory element of its 140 UK and international physical locations.
It needed to quickly put in place new measures to convince customers to buy online and as part of its wider digital transformation plan, it turned to social proof messaging as part of the answer, going live with Taggstar in April 2020. By implementing social proof software from Taggstar, Hotel Chocolat was able to quickly pivot to boost and support its multichannel experience and in 2021 the company’s co-founder and CEO Angus Thirlwell, declared that the company’s online sales had offset the store closures and that its multichannel model in the UK had “truly came of age”.
Hotel Chocolat Group is a premium British chocolatier and multi-channel retailer, originally founded in 1993 by Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris. It has traded under the Hotel Chocolat brand since 2003. Today the company sells online and through a network of 160 locations in both the UK and abroad.
The first pandemic lockdown saw Hotel Chocolat forced to close its stores for 12 weeks, including two weeks before its key Easter period. Given that the stores typically generate over 70% of half-year revenues this was a big impact for the brand and meant it was more important than ever to acquire new digital customers and persuade existing retail ones to migrate to online.
But losing the sensory element of its stores meant the brand had to do more to tempt customers to buy and enable them to better navigate the site and the company immediately turned attention to improving its multichannel flexibility and website to better tempt customers to buy and increase conversion rates online.
Hotel Chocolat and Taggstar ran a 20-day evaluation period between 10th-29th April with a full funnel implementation that included product listing pages (PLP), product display pages (PDP) and basket pages.
This was followed up later in the year with specific testing on individual sections to determine the attributable uplifts individually for each stage of the funnel, including the list, product and basket. Each test was successful, which demonstrates that by adding Taggstar social proof messaging at each stage of the customer journey delivers incremental benefit.
In March 2021 the company revealed that UK sales had grown by 12% in its first half, driven by multichannel flexibility and with online growth more than offsetting the reduction in physical retail sales caused by lockdown closures and Tier 4 restrictions.
Martin Bell, Director of eCommerce, Hotel Chocolat, says the increase in sales were a result of Hotel Chocolat’s ability to quickly pivot its business. “When our stores had to close, we lost the sensory element of our purchase experience, meaning that we needed to provide consumers with even more confidence to buy from us online. Our significant investment in support of our digital development and roadmap including enhancements such as the addition of Social proof enabled us to do that.”
The results of the first full-funnel implementation were statistically significant and saw a 4.44% conversion rate uplift for the brand, in just 20 days and providing Hotel Chocolat with a valuable new tool as it sought to bring traditionally store-based customers online.
It was followed by further testing to determine the attributable uplifts individually for each stage of the funnel. Its PDP-only test ran for seven days in December 2020 and delivered a 2.88% conversion rate uplift
A longer PLP test ran from 10 December through to 6th January, a 28-day period, and delivered a 0.96% conversion rate uplift for the test period.
Next the company is planning to revamp visuals, placement and designs, and is then looking to test review messaging, as well as new message types.
Martin Bell, says: “The speed in which Taggstar was able to help us pivot was incredible and the results we achieved from the implementation of social proof messaging were impressive. We were able to support our customers with a range of messaging across our various pages, improving confidence to purchase.”