It's one of the most exciting German e-commerce stories of recent years and shows that an online-only strategy is more than reasonable if you set it up cleverly. We're talking about JewelCandle, an internationally operating brand that sells scented candles. JewelCandle was founded in 2012 by current CEO Martin Werle and has been part of the GALA Group since 2018. The company's concept makes use of a surprise strategy: scented candles are sold, containing a piece of jewelry made of 925 sterling silver with an RRP of 10€ to several hundred euros.
From the very beginning, JewelCandle focused on an online approach, which at first seems daring for products that require the sense of smell. The concept worked out well thanks to a strong community, people with a great passion for collecting, and excellent marketing. Latori had the privilege of guiding JewelCandle on this journey to success, setting up the Shopify store and programming many additional features. Andrew Taylor, Head of IT Department & Program Manager at GG Brands, explains the challenges the company faced, why the community is so crazy about the candles, and how the collaboration between Latori and JewelCandle went.
“We've even got clients that got tattoos of our brand. Our customer base is crazy.”
JewelCandle is an international B2C brand selling in eight countries. What does the brand stand for?
Andrew Taylor: We have been offering our customers a unique product that is a surprise because they never know what kind of jewelry they're going to get. They know what type of jewelry the candle contains, but they don't know if they're going to get a piece with a normal price or a really expensive one. We have a lot of clients who literally get the candles just to get the jewelry. We've even got clients that got tattoos of our brand or our candles. Our customer base is crazy – in the most positive way! The brand in general is about offering high quality products that are ethically sourced, to offer something unique and surprising.
Why are the customers so obsessed with your candles?
Andrew Taylor: We’ve built a really strong community engagement. We work with community leaders internally that are just told to communicate with that community. We're always bringing in new products, for collectors especially. That's something that our customers really like. And there's a resale value that as well adds to them. The candles have been a frontrunner and something unique. We have built the brand over the years and made it what it is today. We offer beautiful candles that are also great as a gift.
“We were very careful about the design, which is why we worked with Latori.”
How does your online shop needs to reflect the brand's image?
Andrew Taylor: We paid very close attention to that. We were very careful about the design, which is why we worked with Latori. We wanted to understand our customer base exactly and use age groups, location, and all of that information to design the website so that it was tailored exactly to the target audience. We needed to understand what shoppers were looking for and how they wanted to interact with the site. As a result, we were able to increase customer dwell time tremendously, as well as conversion rates. We also reduced bounce rates tremendously. The entire brand was built into the website, along with the community and all the other marketing that goes with it. Because it's not just an online store where you buy a candle and that's it. There's an active community, you can reach out to us, we do videos, we work with influencers. So there are many, many different approaches and we are targeting exactly this group of 18- to 35-year-old women from France, Germany, Austria and Italy. That's our real target group, but we're also expanding. We're also moving more towards male products and trying to cover events like Father's Day.
What is your most important marketing measure? And what do you use to reach your customers?
Andrew Taylor: I really believe it's the community, because everything is built around them. Those are the ones that come back and become repeat buyers, those are the core customers that we can rely on. We have a lot of people who only come by once or twice or buy once every 18 months. They're great, but we have to keep bringing them back. So for that core group, we can just put a teaser on Facebook to say new products are coming out. Most of our work goes into keeping this loyal core group as happy as possible.
When did you first contact Latori and what was your initial problem?
Andrew Taylor: We were on WordPress for some time, which is not an e-commerce platform. But that's just how a lot of e-commerce companies start. They start with something that's easy to use. That's how it was built over 10 years, working on a self-hosted website. Especially with our seasonal activity, we do about 85 percent of our sales in the last 12 weeks of the year. So our sales are concentrated at the end of the year, before Christmas and Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With a self-hosting platform that means having a low footprint throughout the year to manage the customer base and then ramping up tremendously over Christmas to handle the traffic. So the biggest problem was managing the traffic and forecasting it correctly. If we had too many customers, they couldn't access our site. Fortunately, that didn't happen too often. So one of the advantages of Shopify was that we had a scalable platform where we didn't have to worry about that. This allows for resources to actually upgrade the site with new features and branding. So we looked at Shopify and wanted to use it as a front-end platform. We knew we had to partner because we didn't know internally how Shopify worked. So we were looking for an approved provider in Germany who could work with us, work with us on site, bring their expertise and go through the design with us.
So we found Latori as a Shopify approved partner agency and held a few meetings with Jan to see that they knew what they were talking about. Then we were ready to move forward with the project.
Using Shopify now as a shop system, what's the biggest difference between WordPress and Shopify?
Andrew Taylor: For almost every change we wanted to make to the design, the IT team had to help marketing do what they wanted to do. Shopify offers a huge amount of tools and plug-ins that allow marketing to do what they think without us really having to be involved. They can create their own pages and design and take care of their marketing without having to ask us to develop anything. That's taken the pressure off the team so they don't have to focus so much on working with designs, but can actually help develop the systems and build a team that's capable of running IT from start to finish. WordPress hosted everything we had. It had the front end, customer service, logistics, product management, everything. So now we've broken all of that up into different applications. We have Akeneo running the PIM, we have the store running the storefront, we have the ERP running all the financial accounting fees and the logistics base, and then we have an internal middleware team that coordinates all these data flows between all these different systems. So I've been able to move my team from just design work to what they've always wanted to do. They're actually working internally on coding within a platform that supports operations. And instead of a four-person team supporting marketing, it's now a one- or two-person team.
And when did you know that you wanted to use Shopify? Did you take a look at other shop systems?
Andrew Taylor: We did a review of Shopware, we did a review of Spryker, we did a review of Shopify and compared all three of them and brought in our GALA GROUP as well. So they had an input to this and we all agreed and said Shopify offers the best value for money, it offers the scalability without us having to manage it and all the tools and services that go with it. So that's why we went with Shopify.
How was the corporation with Latori?
Andrew Taylor: We had weekly sprint meetings, we had design review meetings, and we agreed on what we wanted to deliver each week. We didn't get done what we wanted every week, but that's normal when you're really partnering. We delivered most of what we wanted. In general, I was happy with the partnership with Latori.
“They delivered a quality product for us, even though we gave them some challenges along the way.”
At a glance
What Latori has implemented for JewelCandle:
- Switch from Wordpress to Shopify
- Creation of the shop design
- Creation of the jewelry value page, so that every customer can find out the value of his jewelry after entering a code
- Creation of a jewelry configurator, for better finding of suitable products
Were there any special demands or wishes, Latori had to code for you?
Andrew Taylor: Yes, there were a lot of extensions for us to do for customization and to give you a better way to find and search products based on different criteria. And Jan built all of that for us. We also developed some other features, like the jewel value page. That was something we had before, but we transferred it to the new site, along with the standard catalog page and everything else that wasn't there. The jewelry configurator on the home page was also brought to life by Latori.
Latori assisted us with the initial design. We have in-house designers, but their main goal was to develop images and banners for the store. We needed Shopify experts in design work. So we asked Jan: can you provide a designer? That was one of the advantages, Latori could assist us both as a designer and as a development team.
For special occasion promotions like Black Friday, we offer "one for one", "two for two", "three for three" sales. So this is a special feature that the Latori team built for us, but based on what we were doing in WordPress at the time. We knew how it was supposed to work, but the team helped us develop this functionality. Depending on the type of promotion, marketing can now do it themselves. Only when there is a small change needed, we get involved. But that's less and less the case now because we've built these modules so we can reuse them. So if we want to repeat a Black Friday sale, we can do that to a limited extent, and it takes a minimum of support from us to do it.
“More people are coming, more people are staying and more people are buying more things.”
What are the advantages of the new store for your customers?
Andrew Taylor: It's quicker. It's obviously better for search facilities. There's more content because marketing can do their own thing now. And customers are getting a reliable service. From a frontend perspective the customer journey is much, much, much better, which is showed in the numbers from better engagement rates, less bounce rates and higher conversion rates. Everyone really loved the site. They loved the new search facilities, the fresh design and the look on it. More people are coming, more people are staying and more people are buying more things. So the feedback was really good.
Would you decide to work with an agency like Latori again?
Andrew Taylor: Well, we are a small team and we have 15 webshops and we do almost half a million orders a year and I have an internal team of five people. I have a big Microsoft Dynamics application, I have a product information management system and I have Shopify with 15 webshops, both B2B and B2C. Don't forget about the different brands. So we can't do everything internally, and we don't want to or can't be experts in everything. So we have to identify where we can get professional help and use it and learn from them and their knowledge. So we use professional services like Latori's and we will continue to do that for special concerns that we can't cover ourselves.
What are the next steps with JewelCandle and what will be a role for Latori in this?
Andrew Taylor: We will launch several different brands in several countries. We will expand into India, China, and the United States, and we will enter other countries in Europe. So the webstores will probably triple in the next two years. That means we need to expand our support in parallel. And I imagine Latori will help us do that. Maybe even launching whole new brands and stores. We are expanding strongly and we need professional support along the way.
Many thanks to Andrew Taylor for this thrilling interview. We look forward to supporting JewelCandle in the future. Would you also like to have a competent partner at your side for your store project? Contact us today!