Hey Adam, thanks so much for taking the time to reply. Really useful, insightful feedback.
The answer to most of your points is pretty much in your closing sentence. It is really early for us, and so we made the decision to open it up, and get people on board based on the mission and take feedback and tweak and improve as we go.
The majority of the suggestions you raise are on our roadmap, and the simple answer to why we haven’t already implemented them is a lack of resources. We wanted to get feedback from potential users as to what are the most useful features that we can improve, in order to make it a platform that our members will be able to regularly engage with, and help our featured brands get more customers.
We are still adding roughly 5 new brands a week, and as such it will take a while before we have sufficient depth to offer businesses within short distance of members all around the country - however, you can see that is what we are trying to do, and where we hope to be in 6-12 months. The majority of the businesses we feature aren’t limited to local customers (take Monzo for example - Northern Light Cinema is in the minority in that case) and have an e-commerce element to their business, so members are able to buy from them if they desire.
Congrats on getting 100% in the quiz! As you can see, the average score is a fair bit lower than that! The point we are trying to make is one around transparency, in that many people are unaware of where their money actually goes, as in the businesses who actually own the brands. If we can raise awareness of this, it’s easier for us to potentially hold those businesses accountable to a set of standards - transparency is one of our key values. For example, if Monzo were to sell out to a major bank (which I’m sure they won’t), I imagine that is something you as a customer would be interested to know? Also, as our featured brands are all independent, we wanted to make the point of how many seemingly independent brands (eg Innocent) are actually owned by the same handful of companies that own everything else.
Re dashboard - yes, our primary goal with this page is to encourage members to share with friends. The more members we have on board, the easier it is for me to get brands to feature, the easier it is for me to get the resources I need to develop the platform with your suggestions. As this is in many ways a community project, I’m more than happy to give away shares to help make this successful. In fact since launch, we have been looking closely into the platform co-op model - but I won’t go into that here.
To clarify, no one is paying to feature on the platform. They are all independent businesses that are part of the collective, and that we are trying to connect with relevant members based on values, location etc (perhaps we should make that more clear, I’ll look into that, thanks). As it’s early days, our ability to do that is mostly down to the ‘location’ and ‘sector’ filters on that page. We are looking into ways to improve this process, but it is down to resources as we are a startup with no external funding. The non-featured brands are not part of the collective, and we are encouraging members to inform themselves on the brands they buy from every day. At the moment, all of that information is pulled from Wikipedia, though we hope to expand that in the future. Again, it’s a question of resources.
In terms of the brand pages, yes we’d love to (and plan to) feature reviews and other relevant info. If we host our own reviews at this stage, they would be blank. Or we link to another company that does reviews via an API or something, which again comes down to resources. To make the dashboard more dynamic and personalised is 100% what we want to do, though would take a fair bit of development - watch this space! I’m not sure what your background is Adam but you seem to know your stuff - if you have any suggestions about development ideas, please drop me a note at jb (at) buysmart.org.uk
Perhaps a solution to much of this would be to have ‘beta’ on the site - because that’s essentially where we are at. It’s a soft launch really, where we decided that we wanted to get people’s thoughts before making any big (expensive) decisions. Also it is much easier to get brands on board with a platform that is live and increasing in members.
Sorry for the lengthy post! I really do appreciate you taking the time to reply (and I hope this doesn’t come across as defensive), so I wanted to return the favour and answer your points in detail.