Company: Jelly Belly Candy Company
Contact: Jason Marrone, E-commerce Marketing Manager
Location: Fairfield, CA
Industry: Retail, Confections
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: Confidential

Quick Read

The value of user-generated content, such as customer reviews, continues to become apparent to marketers as they realize gains from creating a more satisfying buying experience for website visitors as well as leveraging the keyword-rich testimonials of satisfied customers to increase their search-engine rankings.

Jelly Belly Candy Company has certainly benefitted on both of those fronts. But user-generated content isn't the only tactic the company has used to leverage user preferences to improve both its website and its sales performance.

In addition to capitalizing on customer reviews, the company used customer click-through data, purchase history, cart-abandonment activity, and other related insights to optimize everything from its website and user experience to email and SEO marketing to product offerings.

The result: double-digit growth in Web traffic, conversions, and sales.


Jelly Belly Candy Company is the maker of gourmet jellybeans and more than 100 other candy varieties, including gummies, licorice, chocolates, and holiday sweets.

When Jason Marrone, Jelly Belly's E-commerce Marketing Manager, joined the company in 2007, he took over management of the company's e-commerce website, which had been state-of-the-art at the time of launch a few years prior but had since become dated.

"We had a fairly small site in terms of width and resolution, and it was apparent we were beginning to fall behind the times in...our use of [site] real estate," said Marrone. "We were using third-party search software that had been installed on our own servers and hadn't kept that up to date. [The site] didn't have faceted search or guided search. And the overall navigation, look and feel all needed a refresh. It was clear we had to overhaul the entire site."

Goals for the new site, scheduled to be relaunched in 2008, included user-friendly navigation and personalization features that would improve the customer experience, champion the company's longstanding reputation for excellent customer service, and, ultimately, drive more sales.


After weighing options, Jelly Belly determined that it would rebuild the site in-house and partner with a few select vendors to provide key components. The new site, which essentially retained only the product catalog and informational content from the old site, included the following:

  • Advanced site-search solutions: Learning Search and Site Champion software from SLI Systems was implemented to expand the site's search capabilities and enable users to search by product color, flavor, container type, and other specific criteria. This technology was also designed to continuously "learn" from user behavior over time and deliver relevant results based on previous search and click activity.
  • Site-search reporting features: The SLI Systems reporting mechanism was activated to determine the quality of search results, based on user conversion and bailout rates, so that Jelly Belly could continue to optimize its search solution.
  • User-generated SEO: SLI's Site Champion product was used to build hundreds of highly optimized static pages based on the site's main product categories and the most common user search criteria. For example, a separate page was developed to feature all the company's "very cherry"-flavored candies and confections; similar pages were created for other flavors. Such pages optimized the company's natural-search results for selected terms and other common search keywords and phrases.
  • Product recommendations: The company also implemented the MyBuys intelligent product-recommendation solution, which mined user-behavior data (such as order history as well as site-navigation and cart-abandonment activity) to serve up relevant and customized product recommendations, throughout the site, to specific visitors.
  • Personalized email alerts: The MyBuys solution was further used to send personalized email messages designed to introduce recipients to new products or sale items that were akin to their previous purchase behaviors, preferences, and cart-abandonment activity. Users received these alerts only when their profiles qualified for the product being offered, as determined by user data. On average, recipients received three alerts per month.
  • Customer reviews: User-generated product reviews, powered by the PowerReviews Customer Reviews solution, were also added to the site. The reviews not only helped customer decision-making but also enabled the creation of keyword-rich site content, which further boosted the company's search-engine rankings.
  • McAfee certification: The McAfee security certificate was also added to the site to assure users that their information would be protected.
  • A simplified checkout process: Registration requirements were eased, and users were provided a guest-checkout option that enabled them to purchase without establishing an account on the site.


Marrone reports that due to changes made, the company's online numbers are up "across the board."

Site traffic volume is 35% higher year over year. Marrone attributes that growth to better search-engine rankings and greater visibility on the major search engines, resulting from the optimized static pages and keyword-dense content from more than 1,000 customer reviews now on the site. Strong open rates and conversion rates from the personalized email alert campaigns have been another contributing factor.

Online sales revenues and transaction volumes have also increased by "double digits," according to Marrone. The McAfee security certificate alone accounted for a 6% boost in sales, he reports, and 18% of users acted on the personal product recommendations generated during their visits.

In addition, the new features have helped the company realize a 33% lift in on-site conversions and a 10% increase in average order size.

Lessons Learned

  • Leverage customer insights to your advantage. With every action on your site, visitors are providing you with valuable data—including insights into not only what their interests and preferences are but also how well your website and product offerings are meeting their needs. Take the opportunity to learn from those insights and use them to provide a more personalized and worthwhile user experience. 

    Jelly Belly did just that, in several ways. First, it used visitor data such as keyword searches and past purchases to serve up personalized product recommendations, which helped to improve email response and on-site sales. It also identified and used commonly searched terms on its site to develop special search engine-friendly pages, which assisted in improving the company's natural search rankings. In addition, it used user activity data to recognize new product opportunities. For example, Jelly Belly originally offered its Champagne Bubbles-flavored candy only in ten-pound bulk cases; after noticing that the flavor was one of its top three most commonly searched terms, it tried offering the candy in one-pound containers. Champagne Bubbles is now a big seller among wedding planners now that different quantity options are available.
  • Make every effort to help users find what they need. Your ability to optimize the customer experience will improve your chances of completing the sale. Jelly Belly, for example, made it easier for party planners and other customers to search for what they needed by tagging its products according to characteristics such as flavor, color, and container type. The result: fewer drop-offs and abandoned carts; more conversions and sales.
  • Don't make assumptions. Instead of guessing, use A/B testing to identify precisely what works and what doesn't. Prior to its website overhaul, Jelly Belly had assumed that its visitors trusted the Jelly Belly name and weren't overly concerned about site security. After conducting an A/B test with (and without) the McAfee certificate, however, it became immediately clear that the relatively small cost involved in adding the certificate was well worth the investment.

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Related Links

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Case Study: How a User-Focused Website Boosted Sales at Jelly Belly

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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via