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Commerce blog | Ecommerce

A Few Sweet Takeaways

Valentine's Day candies in a heart box
Searching online for Valentine's Day candies yielded a few retail dos and don'ts

Now that the Christmas puddings and gingerbread houses have been consumed, let's turn our attention to Valentine's Day candy and the websites that sell it. The goal: to unwrap some ecommerce ideas worth sharing.

 

First up: CandyWarehouse.com. Its Google AdWords copy stated "Valentine's Candy, Shipped Fast Free Shipping over $200!" It did not state that CandyWarehouse sells bulk candy rather than beautifully wrapped boxes of bonbons. I guess the name should have tipped me off. The ad linked me to a landing page dedicated to Valentine's Day, where the first item I saw was a 36-piece bag of Nerds in pink-and-white mini packs. (Would you want to receive something called Nerds from your sweetheart?)

 

image: CandyWarehouse.com: sweet!

image: CandyWarehouse.com: sweet!

 

Lest one be daunted by the 22 pages of candy that made up the Valentine's Day assortment, a nav bar on the left helped narrow down the 440 SKUs via 12 criteria, including shape, type, meltability, color, and brand. In addition, there was the option of sorting the SKUs by price and alphabetically, and the search bar was prominent below the logo.

 

An icon of a calculator rested on top of some thumbnail product images, but I could not find any information, on the landing page or the home page, regarding what the icon meant. Only after clicking through to several product pages did I suss that it referred to a plug-in that calculates how many bags of the item you'd need to fill your container based on its size. CandyWarehouse should tout that nifty functionality more prominently by calling it out on its home page and landing pages. The lesson here: If using an unusual icon, make sure to remind people what it means at multiple points throughout your site (or in your print catalogue, for that matter). Having an explanatory drop-down appear when a user hovers over the icon would work.

 

Godiva offered 161 beautifully packaged choices in its Valentine's Day assortment. Like CandyWarehouse, it provided several options for narrowing down the selection: the ability to sort by price and by customer rating, and the ability to choose items by flavor, number of pieces, ribbon color, and personalisation option.

 

Even better, the top row of products included a link to "Our Top 10 Valentine Gifts." This is an idea to steal: Make a large assortment manageable by curating a smaller collection within it, to appeal to consumers overwhelmed by too much choice.

 

image: Godiva's collection within a collection is brilliant for myriad reasons.

image: Godiva's collection within a collection is brilliant for myriad reasons.

 

Godiva ensured that the items within the list represented the breadth of its offering and were suitable for a wide range of recipients. Selections included a 25-piece assortment of chocolates in a luxe heart-shape fabric box, a 19-piece box with a cute plush bear perfect for youngsters, and an assortment pitched as a treat for oneself. And not only could you click on the individual items featured, but you could also select a button that linked to other products in that category ("Shop Gifts for Him," "Shop Gifts $50 & Under"). One page, a wealth of entry points!

 

This sort of list is most often done within the context of gifts, but it can work for so many types of products. With luggage, for instance, your list of top picks could include bags for frequent flyers, for fashionistas, for those determined to cram everything into one carry-on, and the like. For cleaning products, the list might include eco-friendly, odourless, and heavy-duty solutions.

 

Like the other candy sellers, Hotel Chocolat offered numerous ways to narrow down its Valentine's Day assortment. The inclusion of both "alcoholic" and "boozy" under "chocolate types," though, confused me. Even more confusing: The one "alcoholic" selection, a box of 16 "cocktail-inspired" chocs, was not among the 17 "boozy" options. And nine of the "boozy" chocolate types weren't chocolates at all but alcohol—albeit chocolate-related alcohol, including Salted Caramel Chocolate Vodka (in case anyone is wondering what to buy me for my birthday).

 

image: The difference between 'alcoholic' chocolate and 'boozy' chocolate is... ?

image: The difference between "alcoholic" chocolate and "boozy" chocolate is... ?

 

The takeaway here: When setting filters and search criteria, be sure that each category is intuitive and well defined. Hotel Chocolat does score points for doing so elsewhere, as well as for understanding what criteria are important to its audience: Under the "dietary" filter, it offered options for vegetarians, for vegans, and that are alcohol free.

 

While we're on the topic of understanding your audience, Valentine's wasn't the only special occasion on the minds of sweets sellers. Several offered special assortments for the Lunar New Year. And "Sweets & Treats for Game Day" dominated the home page of See's Candies. The hero product was a Rocky Road Football (American football, that is) able to serve six. "Be the party MVP. Score big with great Game Day snacks." Chocolates shaped like tiny (American) footballs and lollipops and peanut brittle in special football-theme wrappers were also promoted. So far as I could tell, the packaging was the only difference between the Game Day, Valentine's Day, and regular peanut brittle. What See's did was basic marketing: Discover an unmet need or create one, then rush to meet it. I would never have considered bringing candy to a Super Bowl party, but after seeing this web page, doing so seems a necessity.

 

image: Tasty candies could certainly make the Super Bowl a much sweeter

image:Tasty candies could certainly make the Super Bowl a much sweeter

 

One other observation: Several websites were still promoting their Christmas and New Year's offerings as late as 7 January. And for several more, typing "Valentine's" in the site search box yielded no results (though one did prompt me to search for "Valentine" instead). Perhaps the first week of January was too early to shop for Valentine's Day gifts (though apparently Godiva, Hotel Chocolat, and many others didn't feel so). But it was definitely too late to still have Christmas assortments dominating the home page. Timeliness is critical online. Visitors who see an out-of-date site could easily assume that the company has stopped trading—or at the very least, that it will be less than diligent when it comes to timely delivery.

author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.

 

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