Case Study

How the Design Museum Shop Braced for Success and Now Can’t Stop Growing

Photo: the Design Museum

When the Design Museum moved to their new spectacular Kensington location, being able to sell their curated designer merchandise wasn’t predicted to be a major challenge.

From their best-in-design collection of homeware, clothing, accessories, office & technology gadgets or toys, to their exhibition-inspired limited edition posters, prints and other merchandise – opening not one but two physical shops was a no-brainer. Both their shops – the one inside the museum, as well as the one on the high street – actually have their own designer, architect John Pawson. Because, naturally, the Design Museum lived up to its name by having designed its own designer shops that sell their designer-y things. Yeah, they really love design…

And their 4-million strong Twitter followers – who contribute to making it one of the most popular museums in the world – also really love design. They might not all make it to each individual exhibit but the Design Museum’s almost cult-like following offers a glimpse into the huge opportunity that an online store has to offer.

So, no, selling wasn’t going to be the Design Museum Shop’s biggest problem. Selling too much, too fast, however… almost no one is ready for that.

Sort out your online shop’s logistics before it grows too big and sits on you

The moment Grant Atkinson-Smith took over the online store as the Design Museum Shop’s ecommerce manager, he knew he needed to get their logistics to a level where it could cope with the quick order growth and customer demand.

With only him, a warehouse manager and part-time warehouse assistant to handle order fulfilment, the setup at the time wasn’t going to cut it.

Sorting goods, taking up valuable time to source boxes and use them to pack items, as well as processing parcels for shipping was spilling well into their evenings and even weekends.

Repurposing used boxes wasn’t helping their brand, let alone their customer experience.

Figuring out shipping carriers’ pricing so they could estimate profit margins (they’re a charity, but running a museum is no easy feat) felt like a job that required a PhD in economics. They couldn’t pass on the cost to customers while keeping prices reasonable, because each single price quote was a new challenge.

We don’t look to make money from shipping but we’re a charity and aim to cover our cost. We want to do it as efficiently as possible, to offer that low shipping price to our customers. The simple pricing structure alone sold me on trying Weengs.

– Grant Atkinson-Smith, ecommerce manager at the Design Museum Shop

Seasonal spikes like Christmas were making them appeal to staff outside the retail department. Calling upon workmates to stay late and help you out with extra stuff that’s not even their job isn’t anyone’s idea of a pleasant after hours or end of the week get-together.

All of these issues, complete with having to chase around couriers for damages or losses, needing to organise collections, while avoiding being crushed under their own sales success had to change.

Good things come to those who… well, go out looking for good things

Grant went logistics service hunting. It’s what merchants usually end up doing when their self-managed order fulfilment process is faced with overwhelming customer demand. And like most merchants, he initially focused on shopping around within the shipping carrier industry.

Some merchants’ first thought is to try traditional 3PL. But third-party logistics and normal fulfilment centres need to keep what sellers offer on stock, away from the shop. Which means small and medium-sized businesses lose control of their sometimes literally precious goods which are left on some shelf until they sell. Or, have to duplicate stock and ship it over just to sit in storage somewhere, before it’s even sold, doubling expenses. This process is a little too automated for the little guy, including the oh-so-necessary customer support which, if even available, lacks in carrier relationship management and a human who gets it.

design museum preview photographs gareth gardner dezeen

Photo: Dezeen

Grant assumed that major carriers would be experienced enough to be able to offer a custom solution to suit his needs and maybe even throw in some additional perks, like reliable collections, perhaps packaging materials. The Design Museum shop isn’t huge, but it’s not small either, so Grant even had his hopes up for some bespoke discounted pricing.

He quickly got stuck in the industry’s complex pricing schemes, which completely differed from one carrier to another. He ended up tangled in a web of confusing landing pages and he couldn’t compare plans or inform himself of price tiering so he could make an educated decision.

I just don’t think the big guys in the logistics industry really have their 21st-century helmets on. With Weengs it’s so simplified, the Shopify store’s API integrated with the Weengs dashboard and it’s done.

– Grant Atkinson-Smith, ecommerce manager at the Design Museum Shop

He rarely managed to speak to a customer support representative who would be able to provide a comprehensive overview of their offer. Finding an actual person to speak to and get to the bottom of things isn’t a common occurrence in today’s automated service industry. It’s all endless FAQ loops or faceless ‘Artificial Intelligence chatbots’.

Trying to figure out a solution for the Design Museum Shop was turning out to be all little too ‘A’ and not so much ‘I’.

It started to look as if, as an independent retailer, the Design Museum Shop wasn’t going to get the same benefits that huge retailers enjoyed, and access to large-scale logistics might not be an option for him.

And then came Weengs…

Most business owners feel overwhelmed by order fulfilment, and that’s because the logistics industry sucks and it only caters to big players. Weengs is a service that simplifies how small and medium independent merchants and retailers like the Design Museum get their goods to their customers.

weengs packaging

Grant knew that ‘winter is coming’, quite literally, when Christmas was just a few months away. He couldn’t justify the cost of a traditional 3PL solution but Weengs aggregates orders from hundreds of other businesses in London, making it possible to provide each business, including the Design Museum, affordable access to large-scale logistics in one fully integrated fulfilment service. Grant’s almost certain that without it, it would’ve ruined the holidays for staff working ridiculous overtime and for lots of customers not getting their presents in time.

The Design Museum Shop was able to start offering flat rate shipping costs to their customers, depending on where the items were delivered and when they needed to get there. Because large volumes from all the shops put together provides Weengs with better rates from carriers, the savings are passed on to the merchants so they can invest in growth. Weengs grows when they grow. Grant wouldn’t have been able to focus on improving the online store and increase sales without the freed up time and unlocked budget due to better pricing that now went into development.

Grant and his team never had to deal with carriers again. Weengs also takes on the burden of carrier relationship management, handling any issues on behalf of the sellers but with greater leverage.

Major players seem like they’re stuck in their way and deal only with really big guys and just don’t care about small operators like us. Now we have Weengs so we don’t have to worry about that anymore.

– Grant Atkinson-Smith, ecommerce manager at the Design Museum Shop

The Design Museum Shop simply got added to the Weengs collection route. They didn’t have to invest any resource into researching the market or trying to sync up with obsolete services. Their Shopify webstore simply integrated with Weengs’ API. So whenever an item was sold, the order could be imported to their Weengs dashboard. Sold goods are collected by Weengs slots from the workshops, stores or storage locations of sellers, at same time every day, so Grant stopped worrying about organising collections.

The Design Museum Shop’s team won their evenings and weekends back because – and this is one of the best parts – Weengs is able to include professional packing services and packaging materials which merchants no longer need to stock. Drivers come and pick up unpackaged items and take them to a Central London packing facility. Grant and warehouse staff stopped sourcing used boxes and left packing to a trained staff at Weengs that focused on each item separately, picked the best materials and packed everything neatly and safely. The team loved it and their customers loved it too.

The Design Museum Shop and Weengs share the same value and worked together to improve customer experience.

We chose Weengs because we wanted to be able to offer clearer shipping prices when they bought from our online store and have our packing look better. Plus no one in the warehouse ever wants to go back to packing. It also made their lives easier.

– Grant Atkinson-Smith, ecommerce manager at the Design Museum Shop

Once packaged, with an eye on volume so merchant’s don’t pay to ship air, parcels get a carrier label and are dispatched the same day. Weengs has access to all major players in the shipping industry so the Design Museum Shop gets all of them in one single account and benefits from Weengs’ insider knowledge.

It’s a customisable pay-as-you-send service, so the Design Museum Shop only spends on what they use and only when they send orders out. Imagine not having to estimate complex budgets and plan ahead. Merchants struggle enough to market their products in an oversaturated market, no one needs to factor in extra-expenses when they barely make their margins to take their stores off the ground.

The Design Museum Shop’s customers receive their orders more easily, safer, faster, better packaged and cheaper with an overall better customer experience while The Design Museum Shop stays in control of its stock, saves money, time, space and hassle.

The Design Museum Shop used Weengs to

  • Figure out shipping prices so they could offer flat rates to customers
  • Save space by no longer storing packaging materials
  • Save time by leaving packing to professionals
  • Improve customer experience with quality packing

Want to learn more about how to sort out your shop’s logistics so you can focus on growing?

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