Opinion

Why chocolate retailers still haven’t cracked Easter

It’s nothing personal

It’s no secret that shoppers are increasingly looking for more personalised shopping experiences and products. When it comes to Easter, Thorntons used to have it cracked. To the child on the received end, and to the adults buying it for them, its personalised chocolate eggs used to create a sense of ‘wow’ – a gift lovingly created, just for you. Today, simply adding someone’s name in piped chocolate has seemingly lost its charm, much like the retailer itself. It’s all a little old hat (or should that be Easter bonnet?).

One of the biggest trading periods of the year for confectionery retailers and rather than simply being a quaint reminder of our childhood, it should instead serve to illustrate just how much more this sector could do to embrace shopper’s growing love of the trend for personalisation.

Many do offer the chance to personalise greetings messages, while others allow customers to build their own selection boxes or hampers. But often they restrict it only to their online store. In contrast, there are countless examples within other sectors where forward-thinking retailers are creating more engaging and personable experiences in-store – something that chocolatiers should be taking notice of and aspiring to produce themselves.

The likes of Thorntons and Godiva may offer samples to taste, but compared with Holland & Barrett’s Tea Bar or Molton Brown’s Navigation Through Scent displays, in-store sampling typically lacks retail theatre and is rarely used to explore shopper or consumer preferences of smells and tastes. For a product category that is so emotionally tied to the senses, that is a trick missed.

 

Confectionery retailers could also do worse than looking to the fashion sector for ideas of how to bring the concept of personalisation to life instore. Launched last month, the renovated Converse flagship store in New York became the latest to feature a customisation service that enables shoppers to practically build and order their own shoe, change the colours of each section, material, style and even the stitching. Visit any Nike flagship store and you will see something similar. Both deliver experiences that go beyond picking up a product, instead giving you a reason to become emotionally engaged with both the product, and the retailer selling it.

For me, it seems odd that chocolatiers appear less inclined to aspire to similar levels of a personable experience than their peers in other sectors. There are exceptions. London-based start-up, Candy Mechanics launched a six-week pop-up in Selfridges department store last year. Embracing the latest 3D printing technology, it offered to model confectionery goodies of your head – part of its mission to “make sure the world can eat its own face.”

When it comes to personalisation, narcissism and chocolate could be one irresistible combination although, at present, it doesn’t come cheap. Research does show that innovative in-store concepts that focus on personalisation do have a future though. According to a study by Hanley-Wood Business Media, shoppers are 78% more likely to be interested in building a relationship with a brand or retailer if what they provide is personalised. It’s a compelling statistic. What’s more, for chocolatiers already starting to think about Easter next year, it reinforces that ‘making it personal’ should be about more than a name piped in chocolate. It remains to be seen whether more confectionery retailers will finally start exploring ways to treat shoppers, and those they are buying for, as true individuals, or whether as a sector it will continue to flog the same old in-store mould.

By Suzanne Tanner

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