Global CIO: Godiva CIO Leading Strategic Customer-Engagement Program

Aligning IT with the customer, CIO Mike Giresi has responsibility for the Godiva Chocolate Rewards Club: "Now we'll have much greater transparency into what the consumer desires and needs."

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

October 13, 2009

4 Min Read

Here's how it works:

For Godiva customers, any "meaningful" reward value proposition must incorporate two key elements: the experience of indulging in the product itself, and the experience of doing so in one of the company's 275 retail-store locations, known as boutiques. To incorporate these elements, Giresi's team developed a combination of hard and soft benefits that is simplicity itself: every month, members get a free piece of chocolate, and every month they get to come into a boutique to savor the sights and smells of all that chocolate decadence.

"Godiva is fortunate to have a consumer base who is very devoted to the brand," says Kim Land. "The best way to get customers more engaged with us is to offer more frequent and more beneficial opportunities to interact with us."

The Godiva Chocolate Rewards Club seeks to reward consumer engagement, purchase and frequency, and it does so through that simple value proposition. Signup for the free membership gets you a membership card, and supplying an email address gets you the monthly Chocolate Notes e-newsletter that includes special offers and new-product announcements. If members make a purchase of $10 or more, they also receive a gift the next month—collected, once again, by visiting a boutique.

The result is a differentiating value proposition that offers a high-touch customer experience despite the in-kind reward structure. Given Giresi's IT bent, it's no surprise that the program is multichannel as well. Members can join online, receive one online-only special offer per month and enjoy a one-time free shipping reward within their first year of membership.

When designing their program, Godiva also turned to their best source of inspiration: their customers. To that end, the company launched an invitation-only online community in early 2008. Godiva consults with that 400-member community about all things chocolate, including, in this case, the design and rewards structure of the planned program. This research, along with traditional focus-group testing, told Godiva loud and clear that the most motivating perk of the program had to be the chocolate--and lots of it. The free-chocolate theme is thus at the forefront of all program communications, both in-store and online.

"Internally, the core leadership team always felt that rewarding our consumers with further opportunity to experience our product would be compelling," says Giresi. "But we needed objective testing."

What's more, the free chocolate theme resonates with the company's enterprise goals, which include putting the customer experience front-and-center of the brand in order to differentiate Godiva in a commoditized market. A best-in-class product combined with a rich in-store experience makes for an unbeatable combination.

"Our competition has made chocolate available in so many outlets that we're challenged on a number of different fronts that didn't exist before, says Giresi. "We also compete against many different types of gifting platforms--not only other chocolate companies but also parallel businesses, such as perfume companies. So we're tying each of our new-product launches with the Rewards Club in order to remind our customers of what they could be experiencing."

For Godiva, retail crunch time includes not only the traditional holiday season, but also the brutal battle for customer share leading up to February 14--Valentine's Day is the chocolatier's Christmas. When that onrush of would-be Romeos or Juliets floods Godiva boutiques to snap up chocolate goodness for the significant others in their lives, many of those sales come from first-time--and potentially only one-time--customers. At this crucial moment, it's important for Godiva to reach not only the customer buying the gift, but also the customer who will ultimately consume it.

"One of the program's objectives is getting people to return to the brand, whether in-store or through the web site," says Giresi. "We don't need a significant increase in frequency to see the lift that will justify the program."

"Life," according to the hoary aphorism popularized by the film Forrest Gump, "is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." That saying overlooks the truth that, at the very least, you know you're going to get chocolate. The surprises lie within the chocolate--is the piece filled with nougat, caramel, Maraschino cherry or strawberry cream? It's that combination of anticipation and reward that Godiva hopes to make manifest for their best customers. And while the Chocolate Rewards Club is young, Godiva isn't content to let things ride.

"We're very happy with the initial concept, but we're extremely aware that the concept and the offer must evolve," says Giresi. "We want our consumers, and what's important to them, to drive the program's evolution. We have a wholesale business, but we're retailers at heart, and the opportunity to engage consumers directly and learn more about what they value most about Godiva is going to be hugely beneficial. For the first time, we're truly able to capture consumer insight and put it to meaningful use. It's exciting."

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