Getting Social for the Holidays

Pinterest and Instagram are changing the way retail bakeries interact with customers.
 

Cake decorators will tell you there’s nothing better – or worse – than employing social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram to keep pace with swift-moving trends and promote your original cake designs to scores of potential customers, especially during the hectic holiday season.

“It’s amping up everybody’s game,” Beth Fahey, president of the Retail Bakers of America and owner of Creative Cakes in Tinley Park, Illinois, says of Pinterest. “You can stay on the bleeding edge of trends because people show you what they want. It’s a great way to upsell our cakes.”
 
Yet to handle those customers who are perusing Pinterest for cool new cake designs with little to no knowledge about the cost of producing such masterpieces, Fahey shares a number of effective and efficient ideas to manage your bakery staff’s time.
 
  • Have pricing information and computers (or iPads) next to every phone in your bakery so it’s convenient for your staff to help customers and manage their expectations.
  • Set parameters for duration of calls.
  • Code your photos online so you know which cakes your customers are talking about when they call in.
  • Ask the customer to come into your bakery and use a standard request-a-quote form to qualify price quotes.
 
“If they’re bargain shopping,” Fahey cautions, “they are probably not your customer.”
 
Ahead of time, you can make your own standard request-a-quote forms, which can include the following vital details: type of request, email address, expected number of guests, pickup date and time, budget and cake description.
 
Fahey strongly recommends developing a documented process for cake ordering that can incorporate physical tickets, online orders, point-of-sale and accounting software.
 
At Creative Cakes, they created a custom order details form that they hand to customers after they walk in the door.
 
“If you let them fill out this form, then they have to think about the details that they want,” Fahey says. “We also have a wedding cake worksheet. We give them all the information, and they feel empowered. We give them 15 minutes to leave them alone, so we don’t overwhelm them. They can take the worksheet home with them, but you want to make sure to close the sale whenever possible.”
 
Pricing, of course, is another key area.
 
“Make your pricing easy to understand,” Fahey recommends, “and give them the why behind your pricing. Otherwise, they think you’re making it up.”
 
Creative Cakes no longer prints cake catalogs because everything is digital and stored on iPads. Fahey recommends organizing cake albums by occasion, so the albums are easy to browse. “Give your photos descriptive names that are catchy,” she adds.
 
The bakery uses appointy.com to make appointments online and BakeSmart POS to handle orders. “BakeSmart POS is very helpful for us, so we are always pricing the same. The software makes sure all the decorating charges are accurate.”
 
And one last tip that Fahey recommends for making the cake ordering process go smoothly: “Whenever possible, have the customer talk to one person from start to finish.”
 

Creative Cupcakes

 
Cupcakes are another key component of holiday merchandising and promotions, and Creative Cakes continues to see strong demand for cupcakes.
 
Nostalgia has long figured heavily into the equation, and still does — though now it’s nostalgia with a gourmet flair, so that both the child and the adult within you gets a burst of flavor. For example, Fahey makes banana-Nutella cupcakes, which use banana batter, a hazelnut mousse filling, Ganache icing, and is topped with a roasted hazelnut and chocolate fan.
 
“We also do a dreamsicle,” she says, “where we use pure orange oil in our buttercream batter and color it orange, with a little white dollop on the top and vanilla bean mousse filling, so it’s got the same flavor profile of a creamsicle. Raspberry lemonade has been a favorite for summer for years now, too. Peanut butter cup, again, is nostalgic, and we do a Hostess with the Mostess, which is our take on a Hostess cupcake, but we say it is better because we use ganache icing, vanilla bean mousse and scratched chocolate.”
 
Classics like red velvet will always sell well, she says, but the newer ideas that play to many customers’ childhood memories still hold the top posts.