Vosges Haut-Chocolat Takes a Bite Into Predictive Marketing

June 22, 2015

STORES Magazine recently published an article about how Vosges Chocolate is using Agilone to power their data-driven marketing strategy. Vosges was created in the mid-1990s by Katrina Markoff, a Vanderbilt alum and French-trained chef who was interested in pairing chocolate with unique spices and flavors. Markoff carved out her place in the luxury market selling her creations to high-end retailers such as Neiman Marcus. Today the Chicago-based company drives $30 million dollars in sales through more than 2,000 outlets including Whole Foods Market and Barney’s, eight company-owned boutiques and its own website.

STORES interviewed Noel Burkman, VP of eCommerce and Technology, and a member of the executive team. When Burkman joined Vosges Haut-Chocolat in 2014, it didn’t take long for him to get a taste of what was in store. “The company was committed to growth, and I could see that there were some great marketing opportunities ahead. But we needed some kind of roadmap to direct our efforts.” Burkman said.

“If we wanted to grow the company as planned, we needed to be more scientific with our marketing.”
Noel Burkman, Vosges Haut-Chocolat

Growing the business meant replacing gut instinct with a data-driven approach

Pursuing a data-driven marketing strategy hasn’t been a completely smooth journey for Vosges, which is fairly typical for smaller companies. “Since much of what we did before was based on gut instinct … there was a little skepticism about throwing everything out the window and trying something new,” says Burkman. “However, we saw that if we wanted to grow the company as planned, we needed to be more scientific with our marketing.” Markoff, (Vosges’ founder) built the business mostly on instinct for what she believed would work, but Burkman saw that future growth depended on different marketing tools. “We needed to be more data-driven in our guest communications, which meant a new marketing philosophy and building layers of sophistication in our marketing plan."

"Their goal is to create a relationship with their customers..our goal is to help them find those data points that reach these buyers.” Dominique Levin, CMO, AgilOne

Overcoming disparate and dirty customer data

Burkman was referred to AgilOne, a data analytics firm that has worked with many different retailers including The Body Shop and Sports Authority. In mid-2014, AgilOne began analyzing Vosges consumer data and developing a marketing plan. AgilOne’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Dominique Levin said, “What we have today in many businesses is a data integration challenge. The average consumer has become so spread out online. He or she might have three to five email accounts, they move frequently and they may change their name with a marriage. This can make finding your particular customers much more difficult.”

What makes "browsers" abandon and "buyers" convert?

The goal for Vosges of using AgilOne was to see whether it was price sensitivity that drove customers away before converting from a browser to a buyer, or some other factor. “In our case, we can be a bit off-putting as far as flavor profiles and product descriptions for people new to the brand. The more detail we could get from these customers the better we could reach them again,” Burkman said. Near the end of 2014, Vosges tried its first email campaign using the AgilOne predictive marketing cloud with consumers who had abandoned online shopping carts. “We had tried reaching out to these customers before, but we didn’t have the ability to target what was in their carts and segment them in other ways. So far we’re seeing data points that we’ve never seen before. We’re seeing what those customers responded to and what made them leave before purchasing.”

“What we look forward to is the ability to identify a group that will convert with, say, a 10 percent discount. Another group may come back and buy with a 20 percent discount, while another group may not be interested in any of your products, which is good to know.” Noel Burkman, Vosges Haut-Chocolat


Read the complete article,"A Sweet Story", published in June 2015 issue of STORES Magazine.