In preparation for the release of our upcoming Future of Retail report, PSFK reached out and spoke to Evolvex- an Australia-based flat-packed furnishing company that allows consumers to customize at-home furniture online at affordable, IKEA-equivalent prices. Utilizing the brand’s online interface, shoppers select the colors and dimensions of shelves, cabinets, tables and other modular furnishing pieces. Images of consumers’ homes can be uploaded via an online application to test what the pieces look like in their intended environment. At any time following the purchase, items can be reworked, retooled and remade, offering a high degree of customization and quality at an affordable price. We reached out to Evolvex Director, Priyanka Rao, to get her thoughts.
Tell us a little about Evolvex. How does it work? Do you see your customization service as capturing a niche audience in the marketplace or appealing on a wider level?
We think of Evolvex as a traditional cabinet maker for the digital age. Instead of going out to the furniture store and searching for that ‘perfect piece’ that fits your home or office, you can now get something custom made to fit your needs, through our digital portal. Our furniture is modular so the system works by dragging and dropping ‘parts’ to create the design that fits your needs. Once you purchase from us the system generates a custom assembly sheet to suit your design. Thanks to IKEA, customers are used to the idea of assembling furniture, we are taking this one step further by offering the customer more choice over the design. Through our system you can get an instant price on the choices you make which is a vast change from the 2-5 day quote lead time you’d get from a traditional cabinet maker.
We’re backed by Australia’s biggest custom furniture manufacturer so our production locally is well looked after and we’ve structured the business so when we do expand to the USA and Europe all we need is a good manufacturing and logistics partner to work with.
Here is a video of how the tool works:
Are there any notable figures or statistics around customer engagement and usage?
Since the November launch over 15,000 Australians have spent over 75,000 minutes designing furniture on the Evolvex design tool, with 5% coming back to design over 10 times. We’ve shipped to every state on the mainland, including regional areas. The typical customer would come back to the designer 2-4 times prior to purchase.
We have noticed a range of services that allow customers to design and/or order customize products, which are often available to scale. Do you see this trend manifesting on a wider scale? How so?
I think the future of shopping online is mass customisation, but I must emphasise that customisation of a product in itself is not a new idea. I remember when I travelled through Marakkesh in Morocco I came across a stand in the Souk who made shoes. In this stand I was able to advise the French speaking fellow on the colour and size I wanted and within 1 day he had customised a shoe for me. I still have these shoes and every time I wear them I think of the young fellow who made them for me. I have a similar story for a tailored shirt in India and hand crafted customised furniture I bought in Australia.
All that is occurring now is by going online, our traditional ‘makers’ — cobblers, tailors, and cabinet makers are getting access to a much bigger market than the suburban or marketplace shop. Even Evolvex is backed by a manufacturer who specialises in custom furniture for the commercial market. Our manufacturer would never have gotten access to the national Australian domestic furniture market were it not for our digital channel on Evolvex.com.au.
How have customers responded to this level of personalization? Which challenges with respect to online shopping is this service working to address?
We were at a trade show presenting Evolvex to what was a primarily ‘renovators’ market and the reception was fantastic. Customers were relieved that they could now find a company who could make furniture that fitted their homes as they were having trouble finding particular items at retail stores due to limited colour choices and poor customer service.
The challenge is servicing the customer who you are not speaking with face to face however we overcome this by extensive customer support on email and phone, and we send through material samples for the client to understand the finishes of the furniture they are buying from us. We also offer a complete customisation service where we allow the customer a great choice of material and sizing on special request via email. In this way we address the pain point of the customer ‘not finding what they are looking for’ as they tell us what they want.