Once you experience the decadent French chocolate craftsmanship of Artisanale Chocolate, you’re likely to be hooked on its pure cocoa butter flavour. That’s why the Sydney-based chocolatier focused its sales strategy on physical tastings at markets, shopping centres and office foyer pop-ups.
After five years of steady growth, founder Rebecca Chan was confident that Easter 2020 would likely be her best season yet. And then the COVID-19 lockdown interrupted her plans.
“Selling direct (through pop-ups and markets) was about 90% of our revenue, and as a business we were going well and growing,” says Rebecca. “Just as we were coming into our peak sales period, we had to quickly shift everything online.”
Overcoming packaging challenges
Selling online suddenly became Artisanale Chocolate’s only channel, and Rebecca admits she had a lot to learn. “That first Easter, we had a few eggs that broke,” she says. “We worked quickly to replace or refund those items, but I knew we had to learn how to wrap things better.”
Parcel damages are very rare, according to Australia Post data.1 But when they do happen, they have a significant impact on NPS (Net Promotor Score). The highest damage rates are seen in the Food & Liquor category – which would include chocolates. And while just 0.08% of parcels arrive damaged, it reduces the NPS in that category from +66 to -46.
For fragile chocolate, Rebecca experimented with different types of bubble-wrap packaging and chose sturdy boxes. “We now use sustainable ‘wood wool’ or crepe-paper to make sure our items don’t move around within the box,” she says.
Seasonal gift-giving spikes in Artisanale Chocolate’s online sales, created new challenges coming into warmer weather, especially with a growing number of orders heading interstate.
“Chocolate melts at 27 degrees, so we send everything Express Post to reduce the risk,” explains Rebecca. “Leading into the warmer months, I spent a lot of time testing different types of thermal layers to keep the parcels cool.”
She says she trialled a “worst case scenario” by leaving parcels outside on a 40 degree day, using wireless thermometers to test the impact. “We tried bubble wrap, thermal wrap, and ice pack layers,” she says. “In the end, we learned that with the right layering, when the package is sealed properly we could lower the temperature by at least 10 to 15 degrees – without needing an ice pack.”
This means Artisanale Chocolate can tailor its packaging according to destination and season. “In really hot periods we’ll include an ice pack, and in cooler seasons we can reduce packaging waste by using less insulation,” Rebecca explains.
More ways to improve the delivery experience
Online sales now account for around 30% of Artisanale Chocolate’s total business – up from close to zero pre-COVID.
Selling online has not only given Artisanale Chocolate greater reach across Australia; it has also attracted more corporate clients to the business. “One of our eCommerce customers ordered 1,000 Easter bunnies as a corporate gift, after finding us online,” says Rebecca.
Rebecca is always looking for ways to improve the customer experience. “Once you have the customer on your site, you try to remove any barriers to order. That’s why we offer free shipping for orders over $29,” she says. Order tracking and notifications are also important to her customers, as a high proportion of orders are gifts.
“What matters most to our customers is seeing updates in their delivery progress; knowing it’s moving to the right destination,” she says. “Especially as people are sending gifts all over Australia, they want to know it will arrive on time – whether that’s for Father’s Day, Christmas or Easter.”
In a recent survey of more than 2,000 online shoppers, 60% said being certain of delivery timing was more important to them than the speed of delivery. And an overwhelming 81% agreed free delivery over a certain threshold was very important.1
Rebecca says creating a good customer experience is the most important thing for her business – whether that’s making her website easier to navigate, or ensuring every delicate piece of her delicious chocolate arrives in perfect condition.
“You have to persevere in improving the experience all the time,” she says. And after years of providing that experience face-to-face, Rebecca and her team have proven they can adapt to the additional complexities of delivering online.