Ironbridge Candle Company Reinvents Instore Experience

Ironbridge Candle Company

The award

The Good Retail Awards 2020’s Instore Creativity Award recognised those who have implemented an instore design that delivers a stand-out customer experience. It focused on those who have used innovation to drive more customers into their store and increase customer satisfaction.

The winner

Ironbridge Candle Company has created an interactive and customer-led design and shopping experience. Looking to involve customers more in the production process of products, the Ironbridge Candle Company offers a unique experience which truly immerses customers.

From custom-made to tailored products, customers can become involved in the creation of their candle, watching it being created and learning more about each and every product. Customers can enjoy consultation processes, choosing new scents and products in the store’s stand-out ‘coffee shop design’. With one side being the sales area, the other promotes interaction and interactivity, enabling them to see and learn about their products’ journey from sourcing to gifting. The design of the shop has increased footfall and online orders, with the refill service proving to be a best-seller. Ironbridge Candle Company continues to wow customers, giving them the opportunity to design their own bespoke products from a spectrum of scents and containers, pairing them up according to their own tastes.

The award-winning strategy

Modern Retail spoke to Cherryl of Ironbridge Candle Company, understanding her journey to creating a stand-out instore experience for customers.

The challenge

Cherryl spoke about how the concept came from an experience she was unable to find. She said: “When I first designed the shop, I wanted people to actually see the product being made. I know I get quite fed up with the same products. With the planet the way it is, I wanted people to be rest assured they can see the product being made and how we go about it. Being able to smell it as well is always a bonus. Right from the outset, I knew it would be difficult as candle manufacturing has to be done at a specific temperature and humidity, so I had to adapt the way I make candles to make them in the way I do. It’s definitely been worth it for the experience it brings.

“It’s a very open plan shop with a large, low counter. There’s a clear divide so customers can see everything that’s happening. I also have a virtual tour of the shop on the website so people know what to expect when they come instore.”

Making adaptations

Cherryl then went on to speak about the ways she has implemented changes online and offline, taking customers’ feedback on board: “I don’t have any staff and do everything by myself, from designing, all the way to website and social media management. It’s been quite difficult to communicate my messaging across all channels. I’ve recently changed everything online to get my brand and feel across to online shoppers better. I’ve changed my product photos to lifestyle photos, so people can see the products in situ, not like on Amazon where it’s image only. Things are changing now and I’m trying to get that feel online. I’ve put a lot more content on the website where people can see me as well as the products as people definitely like to see other people. Instead of seeing the product and more traditional, glossy product photos, when I’m in the image, I get a lot more response.”

An environmentally friendly approach:

The Ironbridge Candle Company offers a wide range of environmentally friendly products, Cherryl explained: “I’ve seen a huge change in attitudes to the environment from the moment I opened the shop. I started off with a candle refill service and kept it simple. I’ve been doing the candle refill service for two years now and it’s still one of my highest performing products. The verbal feedback I get is astonishing and it’s reflected in the sales. Customers now go as far as to bring back their refill bottles for diffusers, which I never expected! They’re bringing back their carrier bags more and more as the word is getting out and people are loving it. I had a lady in recently who is a regular and she wanted brand new products which typically come in a box or a bag, and she didn’t want any of that, just asking for the product itself. It’s great!”

On the challenges of finding packaging:

Cheryl then went on to speak about the challenges many independent retailers face when looking to source environmentally friendly packaging: “Packaging is always a challenge with the sleeves that are on my pillar candles, for example because I refuse to put a plastic, single-use film on there. The alternative can leave an imprint on the candle, but people don’t care because of the changing attitudes towards environmentally friendly initiatives. Another one of my biggest problems has been that manufacturers aren’t set up to support smaller or independent retailers. There is definitely more support needed for small businesses when it comes to packaging, so I’ve spent an enormous amount of time trying to source this without going outside of the UK. A great example of this is that I found the perfect bottle for my soap and lotion products, which was made from recycled materials and that was the bottle I really wanted. I found the perfect one, but it was only available for minimum orders of 10,000. As a small business, it’s almost impossible to really promote these great initiatives as you need the budget to invest in such large quantities, and space to store them. At the moment, you have to put up with the best possible, as opposed to the best.”

On winning the Instore Creativity Award

Cherryl commented on her experience: “This was the first award I’ve ever entered. I found the application surprisingly easy to complete and ended up applying for two categories as they were both great fits. I’ve been able to share the great news about the Good Retail Awards with my customers and they’ve all been delighted to be part of this success. I would definitely recommend these awards to other small businesses. It’s a perfect opportunity to seek recognition for all the great work we are doing as small businesses.”

To see the full list of Good Retail Awards winners, click here

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