Made.com has launched Made Labs, a tech innovation lab that will work with emerging technologies and innovative start-ups.
The new Labs team, based at Made's HQ in Shoreditch, will work with start-ups to create an engaging shopping experience using the latest technology, with an emphasis on helping customers find the right products and then visualise them in their own space. Unlike incubators run by many other companies, the Labs team will work closely with the rest of the business to get these innovations into its core platform as quickly as possible.
The launch of Made Labs follows the success of collaborations with a number of technology businesses to date, such as Hullabalook, which created Made's Sofasizer, an online tool that helps customers find the perfect size of sofa for their space, and won customer innovation of the year at the Retail Week Tech Awards in 2017.
In early February, Made unveiled the expansion of its flagship showroom in Soho, London, which has tripled in size and houses a host of new technology. The super-sized touchscreens include some new Labs features such as Find My Style - to help customers find products that match their taste - and Shop Instagram, a shoppable feed of instagram posts featuring Made products, built with technology partner Theodo. The smaller touch screens include Hullabalook’s Colour, Size and Style picker experiences, expanding the collaboration to cover in-store technology.
This month has also seen the launch of Made's new online interior design service, a collaboration with French startup hubstairs. This service helps customers visualise their own home with Made furniture, using AI to recommend the right products and 3D technology to create a photo-quality view of the furnished room. This is the first service of its kind in the UK.
Recognising the value that many customers place on having a real-life experience of the brand, Made has also launched View it Live, a partnership with Go Instore to connect customers from all over the world to Made staff on the showroom floor via live one-way video combined with two-way audio. Customers can see the products online up-close and gain real-time practical and styling advice from staff. This service is now live in Made's showroom spaces in London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Birmingham and Redbrick (West Yorkshire), and there are plans to extend it further across Europe this year.
Made Labs are will host an event later this year to give start-ups the opportunity to pitch their products and ideas to Made.
Jonathan Howell, chief technology officer at Made, says: “Made's entrepreneurial spirit is fundamental to our business strategy – as a digitally-native brand, being at the forefront of technological developments is a key priority. We want to provide technology that is always one step ahead of our customers’ expectations.
“We are lucky enough to be based in the centre of one of the world’s best tech start-up communities. There are amazing things happening within those companies, and we want to stay true to our entrepreneurial roots and collaborate with these businesses to get their ideas in front of our customers.
“By 2022, 50% of the consumer landscape will be Millennials or younger. This is a seismic shift for an industry that’s already gone through a huge amount of change over the past decade. At Made, we pride ourselves on relentless innovation and so a key challenge for us, as it should be for every business, is to continue to listen to what our customers want and action this, so we remain relevant in the changing consumer landscape.
“Made Labs marks another step towards our ambition to become Europe’s leading design destination, as we continue to use technology to power our growth.”