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Have consumers fallen out of love with chocolates and flowers?

James Hammersley compares the ecommerce performance of the companies in the headlines against their key competitors and benchmarks them to find the real winners & losers.

As Valentine’s and Mother’s Day have passed so we were faced with an increasingly bewildering array of gifts and gestures that those who celebrate the days can bestow on their loved ones.

So, what’s happened to the staples of the sweetheart of yesteryear? Are we still buying chocolates and flowers and are there obvious winners and losers in the battle for the traditional gesture of affection?

The Drum’s Mystery Shopper compares the online performance of the three leading chocolate propositions with that of the three leading flower ones and discusses who, if any, are best placed to maximise their returns in a competitive market where they face off with grocers and Amazon. Who is placed to ensure they have sweet experience and who may suffer the slings and arrows of disappointment that stems from a poor online offering?

Traffic

Insight: Revenue comes from traffic that converts. Having more traffic than your competitors is a real advantage

Analysis: Of the florists, Interflora leads the way and Hotel Chocolat is winning the online battle with Thorntons. The arrival of a Cadbury gift offer in what has been a traditionally ‘premium’ market is interesting and is an example of a brand company moving into a ‘direct to consumer’ offer. eFlorist and Prestige are wilting well behind. On this measure Interflora and Hotel Chocolat look well placed.

Paid Campaign

Insight: If you are confident about your sales execution (ie customers stick on your pages and convert well) then you don’t have to outbid your competitors to gain a top 3 ad slot, which is where you will attract exponentially more traffic than position 4 or below.

Analysis: Flowers is more competitive than chocolate and the two competitors to Interflora are working hard here to fight the brand advantage with buying more keywords. Last placed Prestige Flowers is driving the largest amount of paid traffic in this competitor set. Despite investing in a similar number of keywords, eFlorist is driving only 63% of the amount of traffic of the leaders suggesting an inefficient investment.

In chocolate the heat of competition melts somewhat. Leader Hotel Chocolate is dominating paid traffic whilst the positions of Thorntons and Cadbury are down to their relatively small-scale investment in keywords.

All companies perform well with regards to their ad placements and all have at least 90 of their top 100 AdWords in positions 1 to 3. Cadbury’s average position of 1.09 is a strong performance while Interflora’s average of 1.93 suggests a need for some attention.

Landing Pages

Insight: Landing pages are a mark of how well you understand the different customer needs that you are fulfilling. More pages and more thought is being put into the marketing proposition and the following sales execution.

Analysis: Given the number of keywords being chased by all these players, none is really thinking about how best to engage the customer should they click through to their websites. The ability to segment in these segments is significant, yet the way the treat the customer is equivalent to offering bouquets in a limited colour range or a limited variety chocolate box. In a poor performing group only Hotel Chocolat gets anywhere near effective e-commerce standards.

Toolbox

Insight: Listening to your customers is vital, without understanding the needs and wants of a potential buyer it is near impossible to improve conversion.

Analysis: Only Thorntons and Interflora have a full toolbox in this competitor set and will therefore have the digital armoury that enables them to both gather insight and test changes to their online execution. eFlorist is missing split testing tools and although they may be gathering insight from their customers they won’t be able to test the changes directed by this. Prestige Flowers, Hotel Chocolat and Cadbury (especially) have holes in their toolboxes and will be losing ground as a result. A blend of both qualitative and quantitative data stemming from the customer is vital in directing a test and learn programmes that de-risks change and drives growth as a result.

What can you tell from this?

• The obvious conclusion: The premium brands are leading their respective markets. Both Interflora and Hotel Chocolat have a strong digital execution. They have a good traffic level, efficient paid campaign and relatively high number of landing pages.

• The inevitable conclusion: eFlorist is the struggler in this set. Despite making a large investment into keywords. To make any significant inroads they need to segment their market, build insight (they have the tools) and test against the insight they generate. This is a sector where big players with deep pockets are investing: both Next Flowers and Waitrose Florists have more search traffic than eFlorist for example.

• The surprising conclusion: As a company used to selling through third party retailers, Cadbury’s proposition generally and for Valentine’s specifically, is a strong one. Its brand is far more responsible for their traffic so they are having to invest proportionally less in buying attention. If it improved its execution and built the ability to develop insight and test alternative executions it would be in a strong position to build their market share.

• The insight: Unsurprisingly given the range of the proposition, flowers is a far more competitive market than chocolate online. Surprisingly, the online-only players seem to be unable to break through against the Interflora model of ‘same day’ delivery to your door through your local florist. The danger to Interflora may well come from the grocers (Waitrose) and multiples (Next, M&S) whose brands are more visible everyday and some of whom at least are offering same day options. The threat of an established brand doing things well is also evident in chocolate as market-leader Cadbury flexes its muscles and markets direct to the consumer.

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