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Jan 17, 2007
Case Study

How Chocolate Manufacturer Brings Powerful Personal Touch to Generate 5X More Sales

SUMMARY: It seems just like yesterday when personalization was one of the hipper capabilities in Internet marketing. Even though newer buzzwords have replaced it many times over, the importance behind one-on-one communication hasn't diminished.

That's why you have to check out how one chocolate marketer took their tradition of personalizing products and put it online in master fashion. Their print-on-demand service has encouraged consumers to have fun with shopping and has increased sales significantly -- all the while empowering the field reps who work their fundraising segment.

Heady strategies, how-to, yummy results and tons of creative samples.
Before 2003, World's Finest Chocolate used their print-on-demand service to offer catalog buyers the ability to personalize gift items with one-color label printing and a wee bit of copy. But the firm -- which markets to consumers and fundraisers, as well as to corporate gifters -- wanted the service to be more dynamic online.

Actually, the decades-old, family-run business had their eye on dramatic improvements. Before Tyler Jeffrey, Sr. VP and CMO at World's Finest Chocolate, began retooling, it had some ecommerce capabilities, but little to speak of in terms of personalization.

"This [three-year] journey has been about more than just ecommerce -- it's about the dilemma of finding the best ways for people to personalize their products," Jeffrey says. "If customers or prospects see that they can get involved in personalization, they're likelier to make a purchase and repeat."

Jeffrey and his team tinkered and tested. Gradually, they decided on the way they offered personalization -- from the Web to email to catalogs … even to their sales reps. Here are the four steps they took:

Step #1. Upgrade the Web site

At first, customers were allowed to print personalized labels for the candy containers to celebrate birthdays, weddings, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and nine other special days. The labels might say, “Happy Birthday from Grandma & Grandpa Jones” or “Get Well Soon from the Becker Family.” A family photograph or other pictures could also be uploaded and printed on the labels.

Next, Jeffrey and his team expanded the number of online template items available in the personalization process so labels could look heart-shaped, circular or house-shaped. They also increased the color choices and patterns.

Purchasers of candy bars could get the printed messages and images on the individual wrappers as well. Drop-down menus and messaging boxes made the process easier, and the designs of the container labels and wrappers were saved in the customer’s account for future use.

“We are able to offer various segments the look and the feel that they particularly need,” Jeffrey says. “You can select an image with baby blocks as a gift for someone who recently had a child. Or if you are a business owner, you can personalize your message to show your gratitude to employees.”

Step #2. Offer email and catalog support

World’s Finest Chocolate’s emails took on personalization by offering images of recently purchased items. To speed up the checkout process, Tyler also had some of their monthly campaigns pre-populate customer information on the landing pages.

In addition, his team mailed 2 million 12-to-16-page printed catalogs last year. In most cases, recipients’ names were printed on gift images in the first four pages. The rest of the catalog included stock images on products but mentioned the possibility to include personalization.

Step #3. Target schools and youth groups

Once the Web site and the catalog were integrated, Jeffrey and his team started arming their 450 sales reps as never before.

The locally situated reps who get support through telesales and some direct mail, visited K-12 school administrators and heads of youth organizations, such as Girl’s Scouts, Little League and 4-H, to gauge their needs for print-on-demand candy fundraising.

These organizations could use the same features available for other consumers: photos, emblems and messages. They also could choose the option of personalizing 10 candy bars for the orders attained by one member, another dozen or so made just for another member's orders and so on. And, of course, buyers were able to put the gift recipient’s name and picture on each candy bar.

“One of the best stories we’ve heard is about a school principal who challenged his kids to sell a certain amount of candy bars,” Jeffrey says. “They sold the amount he had wanted, and he held up his end of the bargain -- which was to sit on top of the school in a lawn chair. Well, the next year, that was the picture on all of the school’s candy bars. That’s exactly the type of fundraising that can resonate in any community if done in the appropriately fun manner.”

Step #4. Potential in B2B, too

As word spread about the print-on-demand service, for-profit agencies also showed interest. Tyler’s team created candy-bar wrappers and container labels for business segments, including school, finance and realty. Images and copy were arranged on the gifts just like a marketing package -- thanking customers for their orders or introducing products to prospects.

“We’ve seen Realtors who include the name of someone who just bought a house from the agent and a picture of the house as a ‘thank you’ for their business,” Jeffrey says.


Thanks to the many changes, Jeffrey is sweet on personalization. The company’s Web sales have grown fivefold in the last three years. Compared to the single-digit annual lifts that they were seeing in ecommerce from 1999 to 2003, Jeffrey couldn’t be happier with the way the ongoing campaign has transpired.

“The personalization capability has helped our Web initiative explode because the self-service aspect lets people vary design and employ a solution that works for them individually,” he says “When I am able to target the recipient with certain imagery because of the technology, it allows for very specific styles of marketing.”

Their email and catalogs have also shown signs of significantly improved response. In particular, their email frequency will jump to bimonthly this year because of the positive results.

Finally, sales reps are coming back with glowing reports on acquisition/retention. “We have a sales rep who services a large group of schools, and he says that using a personalized product instead of one of our stock products doubles the retention rate,” Jeffrey says. “When you consider how the personalization sells the product to the school or organization and also to the consumer, you can see how it’s effective for us in the end. The buyer and the seller keep coming back.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples of personalized products from World’s Finest Chocolate:

Catalytic Catalog - the Web marketing services firm who helped in the personalization:

Award/ - also contributed to Web personalization:

Caslon & Company - provided the technology that created the personalized landing page:

Constant Contact - World's Finest Chocolate’s email services provider:

McIntyre Direct - the creative design vendor for the catalog:

QSP, a division of Reader's Digest Corp. - which provides field reps and telesales for World's Finest Chocolate:

World’s Finest Chocolate:

See Also:

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