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Parcel of chocolates?

On Buying Chocolate Online…

I may make my own chocolates, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also like trying them from other chocolate shops and other chocolatiers. Sometimes the products and the experience can inspire me and show me what I need to do better… and sometimes it shows me what not to do and reminds me of some of the key principles that I intend to follow in Coastal Cocoa. This is the story of a recent purchase that fell into the latter category.

I don’t intend to name names in this post, partly because I don’t think it is fair for me to speak poorly about someone else’s business when I don’t necessarily know all the circumstances and partly because they did respond quickly when I complained. This post is really about what I want to get right in my business rather than what someone else is getting wrong in theirs.

The Online Experience

Online Shopping

So I’d decided to buy some chocolates, and I visited the websites of a few shops that I knew of but hadn’t bought from before. Since this was in the time of Corona, quite a few were closed, but I found one that was selling online. And as a bonus a voucher code popped up when I visited offering money off my order. Decision made, I selected what I wanted (on which more below), and proceeded to the checkout. I entered the voucher code…. and nothing. I left the site and returned. Same popup, double checked the voucher code, checkout page, nothing. I suspect at this point a lot of people would have given up on ordering, but I wanted my chocolate, so I went ahead anyway.

Now some might say that I chose that shop because of the voucher code, and paid despite the fact I couldn’t get my discount because I had already invested so much time into making my selections. So the voucher code sucked me in and they did not have to give me the discount in the end.  That would be a pretty cynical way of looking at it though. I prefer to believe that it was just a case of technical incompetence. But it does remind me just how important it is in this day and age to test your own website and make sure everything on it works. I know that my background in IT makes this easier for me than for many others, but customers expect a seamless experience these days, and when there is a lot of competition out there many will shop in the place that makes it easiest.

On a related note, on my first visit to this website, I could not find a way to choose the exact chocolates that I wanted in my selection box. On returning to the website later, once my order had arrived, I actually stumbled across this capability. Not many chocolate shops online offer this (although of course Coastal Cocoa do – plug, plug), so making it hard to find is a big missed opportunity. It turns out that the option was there if you clicked on a main menu heading after a submenu had dropped down. But if that did not occur to me, I’m sure it would not occur to many other customers either. 

So how will I do things differently. Firstly, dogfooding. No, don’t worry, I’m not suggesting dogfood chocolates (god forbid). The term is said to come from Microsoft and refers to using your own technical tools to make sure they work correctly. On the rare occasions when I take orders over the phone or in person, I use my own website to create them, and test for myself that it is easy to use. Secondly, observing people using the website. This is something I need to do more, but getting friends and family to try and use your site to achieve a specific goal while you watch can give you real insight into how easy the site is to use.

Taking Care

Parcel of chocolates?

Anyway, back to the story, I’d ordered my chocolates but they were taking a little longer than they should to arrive. Royal Mail are under a lot of stress at the moment though, so I’m being as patient as I can be when I NEED CHOCOLATE (only joking, my house is full of it!). So my package finally arrives after around a week, and the house number is wrong. I double check my order confirmation, and I had entered it correctly. So not only did the Royal Mail have to try delivering the package twice, but it probably would not have arrived at all if is weren’t for the fact that we have a top postman who knows my name as I tend to receive a lot of packages.

So I open up the package, and it is nicely packed, pretty coloured tissue paper, some nice ribbon etc. Looking good I think, but then I realise there is an item missing. I’d asked for four fudges and only received three (yep, I like most sweet things, not just chocolate). Back to my order confirmation, and yes, there were meant to be four. And then I open up the chocolate selection and try one of them… I don’t drink, so I had ordered an alcohol free selection. I really don’t like alcoholic chocolates, and the first one I tried was definitely alcoholic. 

Making one mistake with the order is not acceptable, but it can happen. Three mistakes is just careless. Thankfully I have not made any mistakes in orders yet (touch wood). In order to keep it that way as long as possible all orders I ship will be at least double checked, if not more. All business depend on repeat custom, and you don’t get that if you make silly mistakes that show you don’t fully value your customers.

What's in the Box?

So at this point I have a selection box of chocolates where I know some are alcoholic and hence inedible (in my opinion). So I return to the website to try and work out which I can eat and which I can’t. This is when I discover that I could have selected the pieces in my box if I had found the right menu option. So I managed to find a  list of their chocolates, but unfortunately not all the chocolates in the box are on it, so I can’t work out what some of them are. It may well be that I’m in a minority on this, but I find it really frustrating when I can’t tell what each chocolate is. It is not just this shop, in fact I’d say it is most of them. Even the amazing chocolate counter at Fortnum and Mason gives you no way of knowing what is in a selection box after you leave the store unless you take photos of all their displays (which I did!). Coastal Cocoa will be different though. Every chocolate we make will be listed on our website, so you can always tell what you are eating. And you can always check the ingredients and allergens for every piece as well. I think it comes down to being fully transparent and providing as much information to the customer as possible, and that is what I try to achieve with Coastal Cocoa.



Empty Box of Chocs

Another thing that  I found frustrating about my recent purchase was the fudge. Not that it was bad, but the opposite, it was very good. I don’t think it is made by the shop I bought it from. There is no mention of manufacturing chocolates or fudge on their site, so I think they just run the shop. But there is no mention of who made the fudge anywhere on the product or the site. I’d happily buy the fudge again, but not from the same shop given the experience I had, but I have no way of knowing where to get it from. At Coastal Cocoa we will always make it clear what we make and what we don’t. If we do sell something we have not made ourselves it will always be obvious where it has come from. At the moment the only example of this is the Chocolate at Home Truffle and Lollipop kits that are part of our Lockdown Boredom Buster Kits. Once again, it comes down to being transparent.


So to summarise, what are some of the key principles we will follow at Coastal Cocoa to ensure that your shopping experience with us is better than my recent one was?

Online First – yes I will sell in person, and love to do so as I get to offer samples and talk to the customers. But nothing beats the convenience of online shopping and it means you have access to the information you need at any time or place. So I will continue to maintain and improve the website, making it as efficient, easy to use and informative as possible.

Customer Care – every order will be double checked at least, and we will do everything we can to make sure every customer is 100% satisfied with their order.

Transparency – we will ensure as much information as possible is available online so you always know what you are getting from Coastal Cocoa. It will always be clear if we haven’t made something we are selling ourselves.

Finally, I’m a great believer in continual improvement, so if anyone has any suggestions for how we can improve on any of the principles above, or any other ideas on how Coastal Cocoa can provide a better service, please get in touch!