June 24, 2003, 12:00 AM

Showing the finished product boosts custom sales at YankeeCandle.com

The Yankee Candle Co. Inc. has revamped its custom-candle section and experienced a 70% reduction in call center calls relating to custom candles, a 25% increase in orders and a 25% increase in the average order size.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

 

The Yankee Candle Co. Inc. has revamped its custom-candle section and experienced a 70% reduction in call center calls relating to custom candles, a 25% increase in orders and a 25% increase in the average order size. “The day the new custom features went up, the calls went down,” says Darryl Gehly, vice president of Molecular Inc., the company that redesigned the section and, subsequently, Yankee Candle’s entire site. Yankee Candle obtained a six-month return on investment, Gehly says.

Yankee Candle, a $450 million-a-year multi-channel retailer with about 200 stores, hired Molecular to make the custom candle section of its web site more appealing and less cumbersome. Molecular solicited feedback from 150,000 customers and got responses from 30,000. From them it learned that customers wanted to see their finished candles before they placed an order. “It’s not profound, but sometimes it’s the simple things that really make a difference,” says Bob Stetzel, director of development at Yankee Candle. “If you give customers better feedback, you increase their confidence in buying and reduce returns.”

Before the redesign, 96% of custom candle orders were handled by call center reps, Gehly says. “The lengths of time were incredible,” he says. “Customers could take 20 minutes to talk about what a finished custom candle would look like.”

With the redesign, a customer who clicks on the custom candle portion of the site gets a choice of candles, then a pop-up window that starts the customization. Customers choose a label, a fragrance, a message, and, if desired, a wrap, a ribbon and a flower. Each element is displayed on a candle and a customer can change any element without having to start over. Before the redesign, customers simply checked off the element they wanted from a list but did not get to see the finished product. Sales of extras like wrap, ribbon and flowers also went up with the redesign, Gehly says. Now calls to the call center are brief, in the nature of a customer wanting more specific description of a scent, for instance, and most customers return to the web to complete the order.

While Gehly will not reveal how much Yankee Candle paid for the revamp of the custom candle section, he says similar technology would have a list price of $250,000. Molecular used Macromedia Inc.’s Flash technology to create the customization. One of the benefits of Flash is that Flash comes pre-installed on most computers and so customers don’t need to download a plug-in or have broadband access to make it work, he says.

Yankee also recently re-designed its entire site, incorporating new search functions, such as search by fragrance, and allowing users to ship orders to multiple addresses.

 

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