Chocolate Shops – The Ultimate Customer Experience
As soon as I booked my plane tickets to Belgium, I started looking up chocolate tours. Given that most of my chocolate consumption consists of products from Hershey’s and Mars, I wanted to finally learn how to distinguish the good chocolate from the great chocolate.
During the tour, we visited six different chocolate houses:
- Leonidas – Along with being the most affordable chocolate shop of the six, this shop specializes in pralines.
- Neuhaus – This shop invented and patented the concept of the chocolate box. As you can imagine, they have really beautiful packaging for all of their products.
- Mary – The founder of the store, Mary, was the first chocolate shop owner to become an official chocolate provider to the crown.
- Frederic Blondeel – This store includes only hand-made chocolates, and is part of the new school of chocolate, meaning that the chocolatier uses non-traditional ingredients like lemongrass and ginger in the products.
- Pierre Marcolini – Founded by an award-winning pastry chef and chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini chocolates include information on where the cocoa beans are farmed, so that customers can try to taste the differences between different locations.
- Patrick Roger – The store features extremely exotic chocolates, as well as quirky chocolate sculptures of a boot, a turkey, and even a huge chocolate table.
During the tour, I was able to appreciate how the chocolate shops really focused on delivering a delightful customer experience. While obviously having an amazing product that customers love is important, the design of the chocolate shop and the packaging of the chocolate boxes play a big role in attracting customers.
For example, Frederic Blondeel focuses all his energy on being a great chocolatier, as opposed to marketing his products. Even though he uses extremely high quality ingredients and hand-makes the chocolates sold in his shop, the lack of distinguishable packaging and indistinctive layout of the store are two of the reasons that his shop is not as well-known or visited compared to his competitors.
In contrast, Pierre Marcolini hired a marketing team to design his chocolate shop and packaging. When customers walk in, they see chocolates stored behind glass cases, as if the chocolates were luxury watches or jewelry. Also, the chocolate boxes are very sleek, with a matte-black design, to convey the luxurious nature of the product. In the flagship Pierre Marcolini chocolate shop, there is even a small coffee shop area where customers can relax and enjoy some of the chocolate, which keeps customers in the store longer.
Although I went on this chocolate tour with the intention of sampling different chocolates, it turned out to be one of the most delicious marketing classes I will probably ever take.