February 28, 2012, 10:22 AM

A delicious site design drives holiday sales for Lake Champlain Chocolates

On Cyber Monday the site converted customers at twice the rate as in 2010.

Allison Enright

Editor

Lead Photo

The revised site includes new navigational choices.

Gourmet chocolate manufacturer and e-retailer Lake Champlain Chocolates last year took advantage of late spring and summer, its slowest sales periods, to prepare for its busiest season, the winter holidays. On top of its to-do list was a site redesign that included a move to a new e-commerce platform, better use of product images, more specific navigation options and improvements to the checkout flow that made it easier for consumers to send more chocolate gifts for more people.

“There’s a lot of seasonality to our products,” says Greg Tickle, e-commerce manager for Lake Champlain Chocolates, No. 939 in Internet Retailer’s Second 500 Guide. “We needed the flexibility to easily change from holidays to Valentine’s to Easter products.”

The e-retailer hired Grand River Inc., a web site design firm, for the rebuilding project. The firm suggested building the new site on the Magento Inc. e-commerce platform. Tickle says that after reviewing multiple options, the Magento platform best suited the e-retailer’s current needs and promises to be adaptable enough for the e-retailer’s future plans. Online marketplace and e-commerce technology provider eBay Inc. bought Magento last year.

The new site debuted in August. The site is wider than the previous one, filling more of the browser’s screen. The new width added room for more navigation options, says Judy Foster, executive creative director at Grand River Inc. The top navigation bar, for example, now includes “business gifting” and “wedding & party” options that allow consumers shopping to more easily find products that apply to them, rather than have to sort through chocolate types. The site, through text, photo and video, also strives to tell more of Lake Champlain Chocolates’ creation story than the previous site. Tickle says that sharing the company’s story helps consumers understand the quality of the family-owned e-retailer’s products, even if they never visit the company’s chocolate factory in Vermont.

Product pages now include multiple photos of each item, showing off the packaging and the designs of the chocolates included in each assortment. The new design also standardized the placement of the Add To Cart button on product pages. Tickle says under the previous design, if the product description ran long the button often dropped far down the page and consumers couldn’t see it without scrolling. The new design keeps the button high on the page and features more product detail information below it. The e-retailer also revised the checkout flow so that gift buyers could divide shipments for one order into multiple addresses.

The changes were put to the test during the holidays. On the Monday following Thanksgiving, often referred to as Cyber Monday, LakeChamplainChocolates.com converted site visitors into buyers at a rate of 16.44%, more than twice the rate of a year earlier. Average order size increased 20%, the company says.

Tickle says the e-retailer didn’t change its holiday marketing efforts from previous years and so he attributes nearly all the sales growth to the new design and functionality. He says the 2011 holiday season was the best on record for the company. “We came out of the holidays having had a really good holiday,” Tickle says. “Now we’re communicating back and forth [with Grand River] about things we want to do in the next off season.”  

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