Like so many other people, I did a lot of my Christmas shopping online this year - but I still head into town when I need extra inspiration. The precious few retailers who turn my head aren’t the generalists who normally top retail league tables but instead those who are true specialists – the ones who work tirelessly to be the best at something they really care about. So I thought I’d share a couple of seasonal examples of brands - Hotel Chocolat and Majestic Wine - that are brave enough to focus on delivering one category and who do it by applying some simple retail marketing principles especially well…
Engaging consumers with a compelling brand story
Whether positioning itself as one of the few makers to grow its own cocoa, speaking with authority about the quality and ethics of its products or giving mouth-watering examples of how its fascination with chocolate comes to life, Hotel Chocolat never misses an opportunity to demonstrate just how much it loves great chocolate. Examples range from a chic, cocoa plantation hotel to raising £4m from the launch of the world’s first chocolate bond – impressive stuff.
Adding value through a well integrated online and offline experience
Each brand makes it especially easy and enjoyable for consumers to move seamlessly between channels. When Majestic consumers place orders online their local teams do an outstanding job of taking personal responsibility for delivering them exactly when and where they are wanted. Whilst the Hotel Chocolat website tells consumers immediately whether each product they’re browsing is available in their local store.
Using the store to enhance the brand experience
Both brands clearly understand how to inspire their consumers with tempting but informative displays that celebrate their specialist status. Majestic makes great use of free, friendly wine tastings and even mini courses to engage and educate customers in the pleasure of good wine. Hotel Chocolat uses every opportunity to let customers sample its latest goodies – ensuring that a visit to one of their stores always involves a little treat.
Delivering a constant flow of new ideas
Hotel Chocolat creates clever new products for each event of the season - this Christmas it has everything from chocolate mince pies to chocolate chilli penguins. Whilst the Majestic website helpfully explains which wines will complement a range of festive foods. Hotel Chocolat also has many imaginative ways of encouraging customer feedback – providing themselves with plenty of new insights to inspire the innovation process.
Supporting staff to be brand ambassadors
Both businesses understand that the people on the ground are the face of their brand and invest in them accordingly. All Majestic staff are professionally accredited so really know their stuff, but manage to de-mystify the sometimes intimidating world of wine with their friendly, relaxed approach. The Hotel Chocolat team is encouraged to study for the in-house Diploma in Chocolate – now there’s a course many of us would like to take…
So, as the retail revolution gathers pace, I certainly hope that this year fortune favours the brave – and that all those specialist retailers working hard to share their passion and expertise are rewarded with the annual sales they deserve.