With Web Sales Booming, Godiva Sweetens Deal for Retailers

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Seeking to ease the fears of its bricks-and-mortar retailers who feel threatened by its e-commerce site, Godiva Chocolatier Inc. next month will introduce its first cross-channel promotion to drive online traffic to the retailer's 200 stores nationwide.


Coming a month before a relaunch of its Godiva.com Web site in October, the promotion will mail a $2.50 gift certificate to its online customers. The gift certificates then can be redeemed at Godiva's retail stores for its new milk chocolate with macadamia nuts and toffee bar or other chocolate bars.


"It's kind of saying [to Godiva's company-owned boutiques and wholesalers], 'Hey, wait a minute -- we're willing to drive traffic, we're not scared of it; we're willing to drive traffic to your boutiques because we're confident that overall consumers are going to shop both in your boutiques and on our Web site," said Kim Land, director at Godiva Direct, New York.


Godiva's retailers have reason to fear cannibalization. The brand's upscale nature requires them to operate from high-rent locations and invest in equipment and in-store ambiance that exudes a sense of sophistication.


Though sales figures aren't public, Godiva.com is the fastest-growing distribution channel for the company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the $6.4 billion Campbell Soup Co., Camden, NJ.


Launched five years ago, Godiva.com offers Belgian truffles, chocolates, European-style biscuits, gourmet coffees and hot cocoa, similar to what's offered in Godiva's bricks-and-mortar stores.


"In the past year, our [online] business has grown 93 percent vs. the year before that," Land said, declining to substantiate that claim with sales numbers.


Such growth alarmed Godiva stores enough to convince the company to form a multichannel team. As head of Godiva's Internet and catalog businesses, Land has a seat on that team, which also includes Godiva's retail and wholesale divisions.


"We're looking at what kind of synergies we can garner," Land said. "I think we haven't been the quickest to do that, but it's something that we feel very strongly about as a company."


The promotion is the first of many that Godiva has planned, including a celebration of its 75th anniversary in October. The anniversary will be marked by a site redesign, handled by Godiva's interactive agency, Fry Multimedia Inc., Ann Arbor, MI.


Company research among consumers showed the Godiva site was easy to navigate and reflected its positioning as a premier chocolatier. But online visitors needed to get more of a sense that they were on a food site that offered indulgent gifts.


Once the makeover is accomplished, the site's home page will feature a large horizontal section showing a chocolate shot, but the site will retain its trademark black-and-gold background.


However, the tweaks are not just about look and feel. In preparation of the relaunch, Godiva has named application service provider LivePerson Inc., New York, to create a feature that offers live assistance to online consumers.


Consumers visiting the Godiva site will be able to chat with chocolate experts through LivePerson's technology about products, gifting ideas and recommendations, and storage and handling of Godiva's chocolates.


Amid the changes afoot, some things will remain the same. One of them is the chocolates and diamonds promotion that Godiva has launched the past four years around Valentine's Day.


Godiva also will continue its relationships with portals such as America Online, Microsoft Network and Yahoo, with whom a partnership was struck Aug. 1. These deals and the relaunch of Godiva.com signal the chocolatier's intent to step up its online business. But this time it seeks not to alienate its traditional retail store channel.


"I think that [our retail stores] understand our Web site now," Land said. "They understand better and better what our Internet business can provide in terms of getting consumers to be more loyal to the brand overall."
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