The owner of Nancy’s most iconic dessert shop turned to modern tools to save his centuries-old business.
Egg whites. Sugar. French organic Almonds. There are only three ingredients in the famous Nancy Macaroon. Yet, they form something amazing when put together just the right way—and the secret recipe for this slightly cracked pastry, passed down from generation to generation, has only been known to four families since the French Revolution. “The Nancy Macaroon has been part of the gastronomic heritage of the people of our region for centuries,” said Nicolas Génot, the current keeper of Nancy’s most closely held secret, “and so has La Maison des Soeurs Macarons.”
Génot’s pastry shop traces its heritage to a Nancy-based Benedictine convent, the sisters of Saint-Sacrement, which became known for its pastry-making. When a government decree shuttered French religious orders in 1793, two of the nuns sought refuge in the home of a local doctor and began baking, marketing, and selling their macaroons to get by. While simply a matter of survival at first, the macaroon business quickly became a hit and the sisters gained fame as “Les Soeurs Macarons”.
Today, the sisters’ pastry is as much a part of the DNA of Nancy as the Place Stanislas and Nicolas knows he shoulders a huge responsibility as the carrier of their torch. He also is not unaware of some ironic parallels to his own story. Before COVID-19, Nicolas’ family-run business was doing quite well. Located in the heart of Nancy on “rue Gambetta”, a historic tourist destination, the Maison relied for generations on a customer base of loyal locals and curious tourists to generate sales. This changed when lockdowns took effect across France. “Our sales suddenly collapsed by 90% even though we were technically allowed to remain open,” Nicolas recalls, “and Easter, which is one of our most important seasons, was quickly approaching. We needed to find a new way to generate sales and fast!”
Thankfully, the Maison had already invested in digital tools such as an e-commerce website, social media accounts, and a Google My Business profile—but all of them needed work. Nicolas turned to his local Google Ateliers Numériques for help. This free Google-supported training program—which helps businesses with, among many other things, digital marketing—connected Nicolas to a dedicated coach named Chloe. She suggested creating a national advertising campaign to sell his Easter stock. “I was stunned by the results of our Google Ads experiment,” Nicolas says. “I was suddenly making hundreds of orders online and half of those sales came from customers who had never set foot in our store.” This emboldened Nicolas to press further with digital tools and capabilities. Together with Chloe and his own staff, he worked throughout the year with various tools to increase the Maison’s online visibility.
Nicolas optimized the website to receive orders and began implementing exclusive online offers. He learned more from his customers by working with Google Analytics, enhanced communication with them via a revitalized Google My Business page, and increasingly brought the capabilities of Google Ads in house. He also tended to his business’ social media presence on sites such as Facebook and Instagram. The results were convincing. His company’s volume of online orders and customers more than doubled from 2018 to 2020 and its volume of sales from e-commerce tripled during the same period. The Maison’s community on social networks doubled as well.
While the Maison’s core business model will continue to rely on face-to-face contact with customers in the shop when possible, going digital has led Nicolas and his family company to a new strategy: focus on enhancing the website further rather than opening a second physical store. The main advice he would give to other businesses would be to adapt digital tools to their own context. “Everyone can access these tools and there are so many different ways to make them work for you—no matter who you are.” In other words, they form something amazing when put together just the right way—a simple recipe for success, you might say.
“Improving digital visibility is what allowed us to save this centuries-old family company,” Nicolas says. “It was simply a matter of survival at first. It is now a vital cornerstone of our business.”
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