By Bob Johns, associate editor E-Commerce is Lake Champlain Chocolate’s fastest-growing segment of sales due to a consistent email marketing campaign. Chocolate holds a special place in many people’s hearts and palates. Nowhere is this more evident than at Lake Champlain Chocolates, a family-owned chocolatier specializing in locally crafted Belgian-style chocolates using local Vermont ingredients. Founded in 1983 by local restaurant owner Jim Lampman to sell the specialty chocolate wholesale, the popularity of the products soon created a retail demand. The company now maintains three retail locations, has a mail order and online presence, and is available in Whole Foods and many other fine specialty and gift locations. The fastest-growing segment of the business, according to Erin Douglas, Lake Champlain Chocolates’ e-commerce specialist, is the online sales. This growth is driven primarily through an email marketing campaign, which was moved in-house in 2006. The chocolate company is no stranger to email marketing, having begun a campaign managed by its website provider years before. Originally, the website provider handled the entire campaign, from creative to deployment. However, Lampman wanted the company to have more direct control to allow the messaging to be more personal and show the company’s focus on creating European flavors and tastes using local Vermont ingredients and by taking a craftsman’s approach to chocolate — creativity, patience, and mastery were the three components the company wanted to stress. Many small retailers have turned to email marketing as a way to expand their online presence and create customer loyalty. In order to accomplish this in-house, E-Commerce Manager Greg Tickle implemented Bronto Software’s marketing platform. Tickle first saw Bronto’s name mentioned in an online case study. He added it to a list of platforms he was evaluating and eventually had several demos. Following the demos, Tickle chose the Bronto platform because the demo was able to show the level of customization Tickle was looking for in order to personalize the campaigns to his specific needs.
Converting Email To Sales When it comes to e-commerce, Douglas’ main focus is customer loyalty. “Once we have a customer, it is imperative we help cultivate the relationship. Chocolate is a highly competitive market, so we realize how important it is to build a loyal base by consistently being top of mind,” Douglas notes. She feels one of the easiest ways to do this is through email marketing. “We consistently create new emails with special offers, sales, new product highlights, and branding to reach our customers on a weekly basis,” she says. By consistently creating new and valuable offers, Douglas tries to keep the customer engaged and looking forward to receiving the emails. If the customer does not perceive any value in the emails, they will either delete the emails without opening or just unsubscribe from the service. “Our business is broken into three parts — wholesale, retail, and mail order, where online sales fall. With the help of the email system, online sales now represent 70% of mail order sales,” Douglas points out. In a business where there are huge seasonal fluctuations in sales, it is important to identify where the drivers are. “Email has grown to be one of our top revenue sources, doubling since 2006. We continue to have great deliverability and an aboveaverage click-and-conversion rate by using the platform’s segmenting strategy to target specific customers with relevant offers,” she says. Bronto provides the company with the platform and assists with both support and strategy to maximize the benefits of each email campaign. By working directly with the email marketing company, Douglas is able to ensure maximum deliverability in a time when deliverability is becoming harder to accomplish. “Your message can be personal and relevant, but if it never makes it through the spam filter or firewall, it doesn’t matter how great the offer is, no one will see it,” Douglas says. So, not only does the company need to create relevant offers, the emails must be properly tested to ensure maximum deliverability. With the company creating weekly emails throughout the year and many more during high-volume periods like Valentine’s Day and Easter, Lake Champlain’s success relies on Bronto’s ability to deliver the message. The company first started using Bronto in 2006, and it is continuing to build up to the email program. Most recently the company added Bronto’s “text to join” program to quickly and conveniently add to the email subscriber base.