Furniture e-tailer Evolvex allows customers to play an intimate part in the the design process by drawing on the potential of mass customisation.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to accuse the local furniture market of being slightly limited. If your design tastes veer away from the flatpacked and Scandinavian, it’s easy to feel that there are few alternatives, especially when compared to markets in the US and the UK. It’s a good thing, then, that online retail creates opportunities to address gaps in the market and even better that mass customisation – the e-commerce model that allows consumers to actively shape the products they purchase – has given rise to e-tailers such as Evolvex.
Launched by father-daughter team Priyanka and Sudinhdra Rao in November 2011, Evolvex allows customers to use a mass customisation tool to design their own modular furniture. What’s more, customers can upload images of the intended space and seek feedback from friends through social media.
“The mass customisation model offers a great way to make an affordable, mass-market ‘designer’ product,” says co-founder Priyanka Rao, whose background includes stints in the architecture world and the record industry.
“The old school model of furniture retail usually involves a brand importing or designing their own product and expecting a customer to choose from a limited range of designs and colours. But the made-to-order nature of the model allows us to stock a range that goes beyond the capacity of a physical retail store in a way that is cost-effective.”
As an Evolvex customer, you can enter the desired dimensions of your piece of furniture, choose the colours with which to deck out your purchase and add features such as wheels, drawers and extra panels. Your creation is then custom-made at the company’s Sydney-based facility and shipped to your address within two to three weeks.
However, Rao admits that operating this type of e-commerce business is not without its downfalls. “Each product needs to be processed one at a time and every design has its own unique packaging requirements,” she says.
To keep costs down, Evolvex was careful to standardise packaging and include custom instructions for each design.
Giving customer free reign over product design can also pose big issues for online merchandising. Evolvex combats this by offering customers a rendered image of the product, a solution that it concedes is still a work in progress. It also lets customers upload an image of their intended space – a touch of augmented reality that allows customers to get a real-life perspective on their design.
According to Rao, US e-tailers such as Made, Smart Furniture and One Kings Lane – retailers that owe much of their success to their customer-centric approach – serve as important inspiration for the site. Evolvex ensures that customers receive the relevant support by providing access to design advice via social media and after-sales service through email and Skype.
Next up, the retailer plans to reduce fulfillment time from three weeks to a week and will launch a product range in partnership with Neils Gammelgaard. It also plans to continuously improve its online presence.
“Our website is going to be constantly tested and tweaked in the next 12 to 18 months. We are also working on a new flat-packed lounge product as well s on building a community around our brand and delivering 110% on promises to our customer.”