How One Chocolate Retailer Increased Holiday E-commerce Sales 40%

e-commerce holiday sales

Lake Champlain Chocolates has three brick and mortar retail locations in Vermont. So this small business knows how to sell chocolates to shoppers in person.

But the chocolatier has also learned how to sell online.  And when it comes to holidays, Lake Champlain Chocolates knows how to capitalize on them to increase sales.

Lake Champlain Chocolates was founded by Jim Lampman, originally as a wholesale truffle maker 30 years ago.  Customers soon tracked them down directly, and customer demand led to the company opening up retail stores.

Fast forward to today, and the company has expanded beyond their local area in Vermont.  In addition to its 3 chocolate shops, the company now engages in mail order and online sales — and says those represent the  fastest-growing segment.  The company now ships confections to all 50 states.

How to Increase Holiday E-Commerce Sales

For a chocolate vendor, certain holidays are peak times.  According to Greg Tickle, E-Commerce Manager for Lake Champlain Chocolates, the year-end Christmas holiday is the biggest time. But Valentine’s Day and Easter are also big holidays for the company.  So getting as many sales as possible during holiday periods is important.

This year the Valentine’s Day season provided lessons about how to use online advertising to increase holiday e-commerce sales.

Lake Champlain Chocolates increased its Google AdWords spend by 14%, and saw a 40% increase in AdWords-generated website sales this Valentine’s season.

The company’s experience shows that executing intelligently makes the difference in getting a good ROI from advertising.  Lake Champlain’s Tickle points out how important it is to collect data, be flexible and adjust — on a near-daily basis during holidays.  With holidays you have a limited number of days to capture the opportunity. You must stay on top of things.  “Monitor Google AdWords campaigns closely,” he says.  “Change your ad text.  Drop keywords that aren’t producing sales, and bid on other keywords.”

And it’s not just AdWords you want to monitor.  You also should look at your site performance as a whole, to see how well the traffic you are drawing in from your ads is turning into actual sales. “Monitor your analytics. Then adjust as you see where visitors are coming from, when they come, and where they go once they are in the site.  You need data to know what’s working and what isn’t,” Tickle emphasizes.

Keeping a close eye on Google Analytics is what led Lake Champlain Chocolates to optimize landing pages and its AdWords ads for mobile devices.  Traffic from visitors using mobile devices has been growing steadily and now constitutes roughly 30%.  Even the company’s email newsletter gets opened on mobile devices.  With evidence of mobile growth, the company made it a point to work on improving the mobile visitor’s experience, and increased mobile sales as a result. 

Another of Tickle’s advertising tips is to “speak to” the shopper’s needs.  He says it is important to make sure the words in your ad and in your website work together to help the searcher find what he or she is looking for.  The ad text and the landing page copy should match closely.

Optimize AdWords Campaigns and Optimize The Website

Robert Brady, a per-per-click advertising expert with Righteous Marketing, agrees that Google Adwords can be very effective to increase holiday e-commerce sales volume.  “Holidays present an opportunity to obtain additional traffic by adding holiday-themed keyword variations.  If you normally sell knitted sweaters before Christmas it would be wise to also bid on keywords such as ‘Christmas sweaters’ or ‘knitted sweaters for Christmas.’ Your ads should speak to the Christmas theme and then send these visitors directly to your Christmas-themed landing pages where you would expect them to convert at a higher rate.”

It really breaks down into two activities that work hand in hand, Brady emphasizes.  For best results, e-commerce sellers must optimize their pay-per-click advertising campaigns to get better-qualified visitors to their sites. They must also engage in “conversion optimization” on their websites to get more sales from those who in fact end up visiting,  he adds.

Lake Champlain Chocolates’ Tickle sums it up this way:  “Increasing traffic to your website may not always result in increased sales and may likely result in higher advertising costs; however, by improving your website conversion optimization and the user experience, you will increase your return on ad spend … your ROI.”


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

6 Reactions
  1. Great to see small businesses succeeding online!

    • Hi Robert,

      It’s really good to understand how small businesses can drive more sales. We love sharing success stories like this, with tidbits of actionable advice embedded in them.

      – Anita

      PS: Thanks for sharing your expertise on Google AdWords.

  2. 14% of expense in exchange for 40% increase in sales? That’s definitely worth something! The return is almost triple of what the company spent. This is a clear indication that small businesses should really make use of different online marketing schemes to reach more customers and to go beyond the limitations of geography.

  3. While it is hard to optimize Adwords campaigns, I am also a witness to this phenomenon. Increasing Adwords spend on holidays is always wise. It always brings in a lot of new orders.