Made.com – carving out a distinctive furniture-business model
Last week we saw Julien Callède, Founder & COO of Made.com, give an inspiring talk on the journey he took in creating a brand that is today close to becoming a £100m business. Over the past 7 years Made.com has taken a growing slice of the UK furniture market and has recently started to expand overseas – now being present in 6 other countries. With sales reported to be growing at c50% a year, we decided to take a look at what’s made this such a successful brand.
Finding opportunity via a fresh brand promise
Made.com managed to find a significant gap in the furniture market. Many consumers wanted great designer style and quality product but often found this came at a prohibitive price. Made.com set out to disrupt the market by offering unique collections at a price shoppers could afford – the only downside being a slightly longer lead time. Well, it’s clearly worked! Rivals have tried to ape Made.com’s approach but this isn’t looked upon as a threat. Instead it’s treated as an opportunity to be even more clearly differentiated in what the business stands for versus others: “You can’t fight a competitor…you just have to have a different promise; try to get inspired by what they do.”
Differentiating through innovative design
Made is an ecommerce business but it’s also a product business. Julien gave an enlightening account of how, whilst IT investment is incredibly important, the biggest investment his business has made over the last few years has been in the design team. Made can easily see the instant uplift in sales when it gets a product range right – knowing the importance of collaboration with independent designers but also of building a strong in-house team. The added advantage of the business model is that it can respond quickly and try new things to see if they succeed or fail. As a result, new ranges are released all the time and interest is sustained – something many of the big high street retailers in this market just can’t compete on. “We release collections all the time, it’s dynamic, you can test it quickly and then kill it, then get something else.”
Let’s get physical – bricks and mortar building the brand
Interestingly, the idea of opening the brand’s first store in the UK spawned the biggest internal debate the company has had, and was the one decision the board actually had to vote on. For an ecommerce business, venturing into physical stores can feel like a step backwards. However, Julien made it clear that, despite the large operating cost, opening a showroom space is probably the best decision the brand has ever taken. It’s enabled Made to move beyond its core strength in armchairs and build sales through sofas; a product we know consumers still drive many miles to try out! The showroom isn’t any ordinary showroom. It uses digital to enhance the experience – permitting visitors to use tablets to scan products and discover all the relevant details on prices and product specifications.
Using ‘Made Unboxed’ to gain customer-generated buzz
Getting shoppers to take photos of Made.com pieces in their homes was a great way to not spend a lot of money! Julien explained that to get things started the brand had contacted around 200 customers to see if they were willing to do this, went to customers’ houses to take the pics and then things just snowballed from there. This simple, cheap approach brings consumers closer to the brand by taking part and ultimately showing off what they are proud of. It also helps those on purchasing journeys get access to authentic images of the products they are considering, instead of relying on the usual pictures of furniture in hotel-perfect homes. This idea could even evolve into customers’ homes becoming real-life studios.
We think Made.com has a strong basis for continued growth over many years and are excited to see its progression.