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Hotel Chocolat finds sweet spot with Microsoft Audience Ads

  Article , Retail , Success stories

British chocolatier increases conversions by 43%

The sweet spot of selling chocolate online

Hotel Chocolat logo

British chocolatier Hotel Chocolat is one of the UK’s largest chocolate retail franchises. Working with digital agency Stellar Search, Hotel Chocolat set aggressive revenue targets for its digital advertising to deliver. In 2020, the agency recommended implementing Microsoft Audience Ads as a new digital discipline that would expand the reach of Hotel Chocolat’s campaigns.

These results are very encouraging and if I compare them to campaigns we run in other platforms it’s a lot cheaper.

— Nicole Inacio, Head of Paid Media Operations, Stellar Search

Expanding search beyond performance

Stellar Search logo

“Paid search has traditionally held a narrow use for Hotel Chocolat as a pure acquisition channel but all that has changed now,” explained Nicole Inacio, Head of Paid Media Operations at Stellar Search. “As a performance-driven agency, our goal is always to achieve the client’s objective in the most sustainable and efficient way possible. We saw the potential to widen the scope for Hotel Chocolat, and we are doing things now we would never have touched previously.”

One such example that Stellar Search implemented for Hotel Chocolat was dramatically expanding its keyword selection. Previously, keywords were managed with rigid control that would focus solely on revenue generation. Now however, campaigns are much more extensive, as the role of search for Hotel Chocolat has expanded beyond high converting keywords: “We know those keywords are not going to drive efficiency, but it will add additional value of putting our ads in front of people that otherwise might not think of the brand. We always try to balance activity that drives performance with those that don’t to find that sweet spot.”

As Stellar Search supported Hotel Chocolat in achieving a more holistic digital strategy across the customer journey, an opportunity arose to test Microsoft Audience Ads. As Nicole outlines: “We were already doing smaller display activity with Google and Facebook Ads so knew that Hotel Chocolat had assets that we could use for Audience Ads. We also wanted to expand the reach for the brand so when this new avenue came along, we were all very excited.”

Multi-strand strategy for interconnected success

Stellar Search decided to implement three different Audience Ads campaigns for Hotel Chocolat, each focused on a different audience targeting product: In-market Audiences, Remarketing, and Dynamic Remarketing.

“We think of each of these campaigns as separate but closely interconnected,” described Nicole. “Each campaign has a different objective but at the same time they work together to get the sale which is the ultimate goal. In-market is great as a prospecting tool if we have never had an interaction with the user. Remarketing we use to bring people back to the website, so they don’t go to a competitor. Dynamic Remarketing allows us to be really targeted with our messaging and can give customers timely reminders that are linked back to the products we know they were browsing. And whilst Dynamic Remarketing gives us the best conversions, those customers might have started their journey through our prospecting activity with in-market, so in combination these three campaigns allows us to keep closely communicating with customers.”

One of the reasons why Stellar Search was able to apply this approach so quickly in testing for Hotel Chocolat was the ease of setup of Audience Ads campaigns. “It’s an easy and user-friendly platform to use,” comments Nicole. “I particularly like how we can immediately see the preview of the ad. With competitor platforms, it’s not always clear what the ads are going to look like and for us we need to know how we are going to be representing the brand and whether we are being compliant with their brand guidelines. We can immediately see how it looks, take a screenshot, share with the client, it makes our life easier.”

Compelling results that drive conversions

The unique combination of interconnected targeting strategies made for a compelling overall performance on the Microsoft Audience Network. Between January and September 2020, Audience Ads in the In-market and Remarketing campaigns increased the reach of Hotel Chocolat’s campaigns, bringing 52% more impressions to overall search activity. In addition, conversion rates were 30% higher than generic search campaigns whilst maintaining the same cost-per-acquisition (CPA) as standard search.

Dynamic Remarketing meanwhile increased shopping clicks by 78% and conversions by 43%. The conversion rate was 67% higher than standard shopping campaigns and because of the strong number of conversions and cheaper clicks, the overall CPA was 45% cheaper than standard shopping campaigns.

As Nicole stated: “These results are very encouraging and if I compare them to campaigns we run in other platforms it’s a lot cheaper. The channels complement each other and allow us to communicate in a way with a consistent message whatever and wherever our customers are searching or browsing online.”

As Jack Leaper, Digital Marketing Manager from Hotel Chocolat added: “Stellar Search supported us in pushing our digital strategy further to expand our horizons online. We have been very impressed with the results we have seen from the Microsoft Audience Network and look to continue our investment there as we see it benefit our online business.”

The Microsoft Audience Network is an easy and user-friendly platform to use. It makes our life easier.

— Nicole Inacio, Head of Paid Media Operations, Stellar Search

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