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Digital Culture Award Winner Case Study: We The Curious

Pictured are products from the We The Curious website, as part of a flatlay. Products include a book and a jigsaw puzzle about the periodic table, a yellow robot, a mini drone and small models of the solar system. The lay upon a pale wooden board.
Image credit: Faye Hedges

We The Curious is an educational charity and interactive science centre in the heart of Bristol’s harbourside. Their gift shop aims to enhance and extend visitors’ experience with products that spark curiosity while being sustainable and affordable.

We The Curious won the Income Generation category in the 2023 Digital Culture Awards, for work on their online shop.

The winning project

In late 2021, We The Curious set up an online shop using Shopify, enabling them to build something customisable and accessible. By taking advantage of a local authority business growth grant, they were able to bring in an external consultant to support their Marketing, Operations and Digital Teams to create a shop that reflected the charitable aims of the organisation, and provided them with a sustainable new income stream.

Pictured are products from the We The Curious website, as part of a flatlay. Products include colourful branded notebpads, pens, mugs, candles, badges, aprons, rulers, waterbottles and teatowels.
Image Credit: We The Curious

By regularly analysing site user data, they have been able to identify and take advantage of opportunities to improve conversion rates and reach new audiences, including optimising for search engine optimisation, introducing connected social sales channels, and updating their check-out pages. All this has resulted in a significant increase in online sales, grown their audience to reach international markets, and allowed them to stay connected to their audiences during an extended period of venue closure (a fire in April 2022 followed the pandemic).

We The Curious approached this project with their organisational aims and mission at the centre, considering sustainability across all decision-making and setting low-profit margins to keep their offer affordable. Integral to the success of the shop was an organisation-wide commitment to relevant digital skills training opportunities for staff and sharing that learning across the organisation and beyond.

A transformational project and a great example of internal digital upskilling for digital resilience.

Emma Roberts, Income Generation Judge

We The Curious’ online shop project demonstrates the potential for cultural organisations to thrive through the integration of digital technologies, whilst still staying true to their charitable or creative aims.

A flay lay including books and games with a space theme.
Credit Faye Hedges

We asked We The Curious’ Retail Manager Harriet Spita to tell us a bit more about their work on this project and their goals for the future.

What have you learned?

The Digital Culture Network advised us with some helpful tips to increase our conversion. We added more pictures to existing products. We expanded our offer and put as much of our long-term stock on the website as possible. We changed our drop down menu making our collections more specific, meaning customers can now find products easier.

We learned how important it is to try things out. For example, when we originally launched, we were advised by multiple people not to sell books online. We decided to trial selling some anyway – and we’re glad we did! We have a monthly promotion which saves people 15% off a certain book on our site. We don’t make a large margin on books, but they do sell well and they drive engagement to the rest of the shop.

Would you have done anything differently?

One thing that caused us a lot of stress near the beginning was not setting our delivery time for Christmas far back enough. Understandably, we had quite a few frustrated customers and lost money from delayed parcels due to Royal Mail strikes. This year we will have a much earlier, more realistic deadline for Christmas deliveries.

We also learned not to assume Shopify templates automatically work. We found out the email customers received about pickup orders was directing them to an address in Canada – definitely not the local collection they were looking for!

Has the project impacted your strategy or ambitions?

Our shop supports our financial resilience and helps us to meet our charity mission. Launching an online shop was a way for us to maximise sales and increase our resilience.

We have some important sustainability goals as an organisation. We plan to be carbon net zero by 2030 and to launch a circular economy shop in 2027. Our online shop has been an excellent opportunity for us to create stricter procurement guidelines. Our shop must support our journey to these sustainability goals.


Check out these cute bugs and loads more in our shop whilst we still have our August deal! Use code SCHOOLSOUT for 15% off your order. #Shop #Bugs #WeTheCurious #SummerDeal #August #CuriousTok

♬ loved you before – Peach PRC

What’s next on your digital journey?

Since winning this award, We The Curious has launched a TikTok, where you’ll see some fun videos made by our teams. We have plans to share videos of building kits you can buy in our shop!

We’re also really proud of our new branded range, which is all made sustainably, and is reflective of our playful values. And it was all designed by our in-house graphic designer.

About the Income Generation category

The Income Generation category celebrates innovative use of digital technology to create revenue streams or to raise funds. We The Curious won the category in the 2023 Digital Culture Awards with their entry Launching an online shop to generate income for We The Curious’ charitable aims.

2023 Digital Culture Award Winners

Meet and be inspired by more of the brilliant Winners in the 2023 Digital Culture Awards. The nine categories celebrate innovation in areas including digital content creation and distribution, online audience engagement, digital income development strategies, data-led decision-making and overall commitment to digital skills development and capacity building.

Want to step up your online shop offer?

The Digital Culture Network can help! Our digital experts can provide free 1-2-1 support to all creative and cultural individuals and organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help with a specific issue or would just like to chat about your digital ambitions, please get in touch.

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