Case Study: Dessert Gallery (USA)


This first time ever research study was conducted on Dessert Gallery, a Houston-based bakery and café chain that had no Facebook presence prior to the study. The research was conducted by Utpal Dholakia and Emily Durham of the Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business and it was published in the Harvard Business Review. Dholakia and Durham surveyed customers of Dessert Gallery (DG) and based on surveys of more than 1,700 respondents over a three-month period. They began by e-mailing surveys to over 13,000 customers from DG’s mailing list to collate store evaluations and data on shopping behaviour but only 689 people responded. Later, Dholakia and Durham created a Facebook page for DG and invited everyone on the mailing list to become a Fan. DG were not shy in socialising, they updated its page several times a week with pictures of goodies, news about contests and promotions, links to favourable reviews, and even introductions to DG employees. Three months later, Dholakia and Durham resurveyed customers, this time receiving 1,067 responses from DG’s Facebook Fans, Facebook users who did not become Fans, and customers not on Facebook. Dholakia and Durham analysed the data sets separately and then compared participants in the first survey with those in the second who had become DG fans. The key findings are as follows:

  • Made 36% more visits to DG’s stores each month
  • Spent 45% more of their eating-out dollars at DG
  • Spent 33% more at DG’s stores
  • Had 14% higher emotional attachment to the DG brand
  • Had 41% greater psychological loyalty toward DG

In addition to these statistics DG’s Facebook Fans also generated more word-of-mouth marketing than non-Facebook Fans. But although these are great statistics 5 percent of the company’s 13,000 customers became Facebook Fans within the three month period.


“The owner’s name is Jennifer, so we would give cookies or cakes to anyone named Jennifer; just some ways to engage people.”

–          Utpal Dholakia, associate professor of marketing at Rice University

Visiting the Page today there are currently 810 Fans and interactivity almost on a daily basis. The main method in which Dessert Gallery engaged with their Facebook Fans on their Page was by posting up photos of the yummy cakes and desserts they have created for special events and holiday; sparking a string of conversation between company and customer. Therefore, although DG is a small town company with just a couple of stores utilising Facebook is still useful to gage the devotion of their customers. Dholakia sums up the research study by stating that Facebook marketing programs may be especially effective for iconic brands, which appear to attract a higher percentage of their customer base as Facebook Fans.

“Cautious optimism seems wise at this point. Companies should see what Facebook can do for them but use it as just one niche tool.”

–          Utpal Dholakia, associate professor of marketing at Rice University


Dessert Gallery Facebook Page

Calderón, S.I. (2010) Inside Facebook. “Rice University Study Shows How Facebook Pages Can Help Local Businesses”

Dholakia, U M. and Durham E. (2010) Harvard Business Review: “One Café Chain’s Facebook Experiment March 2010”

Quenqua, D. (2010) ClickZ. Rice University Study: Small Biz Rewarded by Facebook Fans”

Ruth, D. (2010) Rice University. “First-of-its-kind research: Facebook fan pages are effective marketing tool”


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