Made.com, a furniture retailer which 'cuts out the middle man' launched yesterday, backed by £2.5m in funding from Brent Hoberman, PROfounders and others.
The company was founded by entrepreneur Ning Li, and aims to bring down the cost of furniture by cutting out the wholesaler and the retailer and selling direct to the public.
I've been taking a look at the new site...
Ning Li was the co-founder of MyFab.com, a French website with the same concept of furniture retail, before cashing out during a previous round of funding. The £2.5m funding comes from Brent Hoberman, PROfounders, Marc Simoncini through Jaïna Capital, and John Hunt.
The homepage looks good, and importantly, does a good job of communicating the purpose of the website to the new visitor.
The picture and the 'prices stripped bare' tag help to get the point across, and there are some useful links further down the page that explain the site and the business model.
Instead of having a long homepage which would require scrolling, everything is kept above the fold. The links to Why made.com, Well made etc open up space below the fold where the site is explained, or top sellers are shown. It's a useful way to get users to look below the fold:
There is a limited range of products so far, but the products that are there are well-presented.
There is a countdown clock on the page which shows the time left until the piece goes into production, and thus the time left to place an order, which could have the effect of creating a sense of urgency in the customer's mind and push them towards a purchase.
There is plenty of information about the product, the designer, the place of manufacture, the process, and even the method of delivery from China or wherever else the product will be made.
Customers will have to wait 10-14 weeks for some products, but this is not uncommon in furniture retail, and the site does allow the order to be tracked all the way.
Product photos are high quality, and include a range of views and some detailed shots. The returns policy is made clear, and reassurances are offered about site security, though by text not logos. The only thing that's missing is delivery charges.
Voting for new products
The site also has a 'Labs' section, where users can vote for the products that the site will sell in future.
Customers can say whether they love or loathe a product, and give a five star rating for price and design before submitting their vote.
It's a good way for the site to gauge the popularity of new products, and also to find the correct price range when it is made available, though if I was a furniture designer, I'd be getting my friends and family to vote for me.
The basket page is fine, with shipping charges revealed, a summary of the purchase, and the same returns and security reassurances that are on the rest of the site:
The checkout process requires registration, though the form is at least simple to fill in. The process hasn't been enclosed though, so there are still plenty of links that could take shoppers away from the checkout.
Made.com has gone for an 'accordian-style' one page checkout. Customers fill each part at a time, and the next section opens up when this form is submitted.
This design means that the upcoming steps in the checkout process are clear to see, and the headings also act as useful links in case customers need to go back and edit any previous information they have entered, better than having to use the back button on the browser.
Also, there is a summary of information that you have entered so far along the side so you can quickly review your details and check for errors.
The backing, and the fact that the business model has already been proven elsewhere, suggests that Made.com has an excellent chance of success.
Like Naked Wines, it promises to provide quality products for customers at affordable prices by cutting out middlemen, and this is something that will appeal to shoppers.
Importantly, the site communicates this business model effectively, and provides a good experience throughout, combining usability with an attractive and stylish design. Whistles take note...