How Sweet It Is

Retailers are finally harnessing the power of the Web and its role in a successful multichannel strategy. But now they are confronted with how their networks can support a new dimension in this strategy—mobility.

By adopting a platform that allows consumers to shop via their wireless personal communications devices, Godiva Chocolatier is exploiting the potential of mobile retailing.

New York City-based Godiva creates and sells premium chocolate concoctions, from candy and truffles, to coffee, cocoa and ice cream. The company is best known for the goodies it sells through 450 boutique stores (more than 200 locations in North America), department stores, via catalogs and online.

An e-commerce pioneer, Godiva launched its Web site in 1995. “But we always look at ways to stay ahead of the curve,” said Kim Land, VP, Godiva Direct.

For Godiva, that newest wave is taking the form of smart phones. Until now, busy shoppers in North America used their Web-based handheld devices purely to search for and compare merchandise. But with the help of a mobile platform from Digby, Austin, Texas, Godiva is one company that is merging browsing and shopping functionality across this emerging retail medium.

The power of convenience: Godiva’s first foray into the mobile genre was through its participation in the Digby Marketplace, which it joined over a year ago. This mobile-shopping platform, established by Digby, features approximately 25 retailers, including Godiva, Barnes & Noble and 1-800- Flowers.com .

Consumers who carry BlackBerrys, Windows Mobile smart phones and units with mobile browsers can access the marketplace and purchase products anywhere, anytime, through their personal devices.

“Once we saw the sales and customer affinity increases that the Marketplace provided, we began considering the benefits of having our own mobile store,” Land said.

Godiva got the ball rolling by implementing a mobile e-commerce software platform and network access (created and hosted by Digby) in the spring.

Godiva provided Digby with a logo and sends product catalog-data feeds that include merchandise photos, descriptions and prices. This information is uploaded onto a server that resides at a data center operated by Digby. The location also houses the service’s telecommunications network and e-commerce platform.

As shoppers access www.Godiva.com through their wireless device, they are prompted to download software that gives them access to Godiva’s user interface and Digby’s network.

Mobile shoppers navigate the site based on specific categories, including Chocolates & Truffles, Gift Baskets, Party Favors and Business Gifts. After selecting their merchandise, customers input their name, shipping address and credit-card information.

The order is encrypted and transferred through the e-commerce server to Godiva’s e-commerce system, which authorizes the user’s credit card and processes the order. Encrypted credit-card information is further protected since it is stored locally on the user’s device.

The service launched just before Mother’s Day, and Godiva has already tracked “a good degree of downloads,” she said. “We expect to get more traction in the fall as we head into the holiday season.”

Land also expects to see a return on investment following the holiday season.

Mobile shopping is still evolving, but Godiva is already exploring additional ways to take advantage of the service.

“We are talking about partnership opportunities with a carrier that would make Godiva.com a default application on some devices,” Land explained. “It could be a strategic way to build out our mobile store and commitment to mobility.”