Theo Chocolate Sweetens Online Business by Adding BigCommerce to its Recipe

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23%

increase in site visitors

69%

increase in conversion rate

108%

increase in transactions

Performance metrics compare November 1-December 2018 to November 1-December 2019.

A different kind of chocolate company

From candy bars to caramels and from cookie bites to peanut butter cups, everything is coming up chocolate, or covered in it at Theo Chocolate.

Named after the Theobroma Cacao bean, Theo makes its chocolate from scratch, something the brand always intended to do since its founding in 2005. Also from its beginnings, the company chose to be a fair trade, certified organic bean-to-bar chocolate maker founded on the belief that chocolate can be made in a way that allows everyone to thrive. This includes the farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo who nurture and harvest the cacao bean to the chocolatiers who use it to create delectable confections.

Theo’s business growth primarily began as B2B with distribution in grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Kroger, and with a strong presence locally through its Flagship Store and Factory Experience. What followed next was Theo’s entry into the world of ecommerce.

CHALLENGE

Built for branding, not ecommerce

Theo launched its first ecommerce site using WooCommerce in 2017. Admittedly the site was built more for branding than it was for ecommerce, which meant things needed to change.

“Our team had built the website. It had beautiful photography, showed off the branding really well, but selling products online wasn't the top priority of the site,” said Lynne Rowan, director of marketing at Theo Chocolate. “We were going through a rebranding of our company and took account of our website. We came to the consensus that WooCommerce's front-end user experience was not built for shopping. We had limited control over the shopping experience and found it difficult to manage the site without development support.”

To support smaller wholesale clients who made purchases directly, Theo created a customer portal. It had a lot of the same struggles as the main site for consumers, and it did not provide a seamless shopping experience. “It was more like, ‘Here's something, if it's convenient for you, you can go on the website and shop,’" Lynne commented.

“We essentially had two different shopping experiences and knew WooCommerce wasn’t going to be the platform to help us grow as a business. We wanted to lean into ecommerce in a bigger way, so we decided to migrate away from WooCommerce,” Lynne said.

SOLUTION

A chocolate “Overdose” powered by BigCommerce

Lynne and her team focused their search on finding an ecommerce platform that would be flexible and easy enough for non-developers to use. The platform also had to offer out-of-the-box tools and features to deliver enhanced site performance, integration options using APIs and third-party solutions to enable things like an automated order flow process, and last but not least, the new platform had to support B2C and B2B online shoppers as well as customers who wanted to tour the Theo Chocolate Factory.

Shopify and even a rebuild of the WooCommerce site were options considered. However, Theo followed the recommendation of its development agency, Overdose Digital, a BigCommerce Elite Partner, and chose to build its new site and ecommerce future on BigCommerce.

The build began in July 2019, and just three months later, October 2019, Theo’s rebranded, revived site was live on BigCommerce.

“Overdose was involved, from start to finish, helping us evaluate providers and managing the entire site migration to BigCommerce. They did a fantastic job incorporating the new look and feel of our rebrand throughout the site as well,” Lynne said. “They were able to capitalize on the flexibility of BigCommerce to adapt its out-of-the-box functionality to create custom features for our business. And they completely up-leveled our wholesale customer experience by making things more cohesive and user-friendly.”

Part of that up-level functionality is the creation of a custom wholesale order form. It’s built as a separate page to allow wholesalers to see the right pricing list, select from a menu of items and place or add to existing orders.

“We make use of BigCommerce’s customer group functionality to control which catalog a wholesale customer will shop in. It's been great because we can have different price lists based on which pricing tier a customer is in,” Lynne said. 

In August 2022, Theo Chocolate again utilized Overdose to launch a newly redesigned homepage. The page uses custom widgets built in the BigCommerce Page Builder, meets accessibility guidelines and offers the Theo team more flexibility to manage content.

Notable Applications:

  • Klaviyo supports our email and SMS programs. It integrates super well with BigCommerce, enabling all of our order and customer data to sync directly. The integration enables us to create segments and personalize communications to customers,” Lynne stated.

  • Theo uses Recharge, for its two subscription-based programs, enabling the company to strategically nurture and retain repeat customers.

  • Shipping chocolate can be a challenge, especially during the summer months. ShipperHQ allows Theo to apply shipping rules that enable customers to select the right rates to ensure their chocolate is protected. “ShipperHQ’s integration with BigCommerce is really crucial for us to be able to manage this,” Lynne said.

BigCommerce Services:

  • Customer Success Manager


“They [Overdose Digital] were able to capitalize on the flexibility of BigCommerce to adapt its out-of-the-box functionality to create custom features for our business.”

Lynne Rowan Director of Marketing, Theo Chocolate

“We make use of BigCommerce’s customer group functionality to control which catalog a wholesale customer will shop in. It's been great because we can have different price lists based on which pricing tier a customer is in.”

Lynne Rowan Director of Marketing, Theo Chocolate
Case study device tablet theo chocolate

RESULTS

Better ecommerce outcomes

Managing two separate catalogs on a single BigCommerce storefront has helped to streamline and simplify Theo’s ecommerce operations. “Yes, we operate both our wholesale and consumer businesses out of the same instance on BigCommerce, and it’s been great. However, I am keeping an eye on the multi-storefront functionality that BigCommerce released this year. It wasn't available at the time we came over. It may be something we add in the future.”

Theo’s site metrics have improved while on BigCommerce. In comparing pre-pandemic metrics for November 1-December 31, 2018 to the same time period in 2019, the brand saw a 23% increase in site visitors, 69% increase in its conversion rate, a 108% increase in transactions and a 22% decrease in average page load times.

On the tastier side of ecommerce results, Overdose custom designed BigCommerce’s user interface (UI) to give customers the ability to create their own custom box of chocolates, which happen to be made by hand at Theo’s Seattle Confection Kitchen

How delicious is that? If you’re interested, and who wouldn’t be…it’s chocolate, you can create your own custom confection box here.

LOOKING AHEAD

Keeping the focus on customers

For Theo, finding the right balance between how its burgeoning ecommerce business fits within the larger ecosystem of where its chocolates are sold and supporting its customers with seasonal, holiday, and special occasion offerings are top of mind for the company.

“Utilizing the tools available to us like subscriptions, email, SMS to really build up customer loyalty and retention efforts helps us do a big job better,” Lynne said. “We are a small team and we have to prioritize our efforts. We use our check-ins with our BigCommerce success manager to identify any new features or integrations we haven't explored that could be beneficial to us, and when the time is right we’ll integrate them into our site.”

“We use our check-ins with our BigCommerce success manager to identify any new features or integrations we haven't explored that could be beneficial to us, and when the time is right we’ll integrate them into our site.”

Lynne Rowan Director of Marketing, Theo Chocolate


Published: November 2022

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