In what was a particularly turbulent year for the retail industry – with even top ecommerce brands like Asos suffering from poor sales – Made.com is evidently doing something right.
So, what has contributed to its success, and what does this tell us about Made.com’s brand strategy? Here are four key components of its strategy, and what we can learn from them.
The showroom experience
First launched in 2010, Made.com is an online retailer that sells furniture and homeware – most of which it directly commissions from independent designers. It also has an in-house design team, and a network of interior designers that it connects to people who want to redecorate their homes.
As an ecommerce brand, Made.com relies on a ‘digitally native’ audience: one that feels comfortable with buying big-ticket items like furniture online. However, it also recognises the importance of brick-and-mortar as a way to bridge the gap between online and offline, and allow customers to get a sense of how furniture looks and feels in real life.
Made does this through its eight European showrooms. It has recently expanded its London one to three times its former size, largely thanks to the £40m in equity funding it received in 2018. New features include touch-screens, large 360-degree displays and postcard printers, as well as spaces for workshops with creators and designers.
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I don’t prescribe to buying much new but Made.com’s showroom is a great place for well priced quality design and inspiration. I’m loving the colour combinations and use of materials, seeking inspiration for new projects. The innovative qr code system means you can scan and order products you want to buy to conveniently deliver to home. Advisors are on hand to help with queries and interiors advice. #ihavethisthingwithcolour #made.com #interiorinspiration #interiordesign #makinglivinglovely #ninascotdesign #differentbydesign #chairlady #colourmehappy #affordabledesign #madetalentlab
According to Made.com’s chief creative officer, Jo Jackson, these physical spaces are “not shops, they are brand experiences”.
Essentially, showrooms help Made to build closer relationships with online consumers, while allowing the brand to showcase its wider design credentials (and show that it’s about far more than selling items of furniture.)
Influencers & advocates
Spaces within Made’s showrooms are designed to mimic real homes, but even then it can be difficult for consumers to envision products outside of a branded environment. Consequently, Made has recently opened an apartment above its Amsterdam store – a space that showcases products in the context of a real home.
The ‘Instapartment’ (as it’s been rather crudely dubbed) has deliberately been designed as a place that people want to visit. Made is clearly hoping that the apartment will attract influencers and brand advocates willing to promote any related content on social.
Indeed, influencer content has been a big focus for Made in recent years. Its influencer strategy is handled by the brand’s internal creative team, which also spans social, out-of-home, visual merchandising, and more.
Its most recent effort has been the ‘Design Your Happy Place’ campaign, which is entirely made up of user-generated content. The brand put the call out for this on Instagram, asking users to upload photos of Made products in their own homes, and tag them using the hashtag #MadeDesign. Entrants were then picked to feature in the campaign, effectively turning user-generated content into marketing collateral.
The campaign also draws on the previous success of this type of content, as Instagram users tend to show high levels of interest in seeing inside other people’s homes (and how they decorate them).
It’s important to note the inclusion of both brand ambassadors and influencers in this particular campaign. Made was one of the earliest adopters of user-generated content: in 2014, it launched Made Unboxed, a social network for Made customers to share photos and connect. Made Unboxed no longer exists, but the concept has since evolved into Shop Instagram – a web page that allows users to directly shop the looks posted by other customers on Instagram. Customers can simply use the tag #MadeDesign for the change to be approved and to appear on the page.
Interestingly, it’s been reported that Lauren Spearman, who initially joined Made as head of influencer marketing, has had a change of title to head of brand advocacy. This indicates Made’s renewed aim to draw on the advocacy of its own customer base, as well as its wider intent to foster relationships with all types of content creators (rather than solely focus on large-scale influencers for paid campaigns).
Another way Made is hoping to attract customers to visit its newly-expanded London showroom is through partnerships with other brands, and a space dedicated to pop-ups and events. Patch is one of the most recent examples of this, with the online plant company taking up residence in Made’s showroom (and offering an exclusive 10% off as an incentive to visit).
Made doesn’t just team up with brands in-store either. It has recently launched a collection of bags and outerwear in partnership with the Danish brand Rain, in line with Made’s passion for ‘design, innovation and style’. Previously, it has also collaborated with fashion designer Tatty Devine.
Another way Made generates awareness is through its Spaces initiative, which typically involves the brand lending furniture or homeware to restaurants, hotels, or any space that requires them. A recent example is Snack Bar London – a café and co-working space that has a bright and modern design, and incorporates items from Made’s kitchenware range.
As well as inspiring consumers who visit in person, the initiative allows Made to create relevant and engaging content for its social and editorial pages.
Rather than dictating trends, Made.com puts the power in the hands of its customers with its TalentLAB crowdfunding platform.
Launched at the end of 2017, the TalentLAB initiative has gone on to generate four collections from new or unknown designers so far – each one chosen and supported by Made customers. As Ruth Wassermann, design director at Made, suggests, TalentLAB is “an innovative way for consumers to have their say in what goes on site, and support emerging designers at the same time.”
Customers can pledge between £5 and £30 to show interest in certain designers – with the option of a refund if they change their mind. With an additional incentive of a 30% discount if the design goes into production (and an investment in the designer, both financially and emotionally), the iniative makes it more likely that customers will go on to buy the products that Made manufactures.
Finally, Made’s business model – which involves only ordering on demand – has made a project like TalentLAB viable, as it means that it will never lose out on unsold stock.