New platform launched to discover innovative, independent UK businesses - discussion


(James Bryant) #1

Hey guys, long time Monzo user here(my card still says Mondo even) - I’m a big fan, and have followed closely for a while. FYI - I know this looks spammy, Tristan suggested posting this here so it has been given the OK by the guys at Monzo, don’t worry

I’ve recently launched a website called BuySmart, where we feature cool, independent UK brands. We feature Monzo, alongside over 100 of the most exciting independent businesses in the UK, so they suggested we post something here.

Our mission is to raise awareness of the businesses doing things differently around the country, and connect them with individuals who share their values.

If you want to find out more, please visit our page here. If you have any questions or feedback, please do reply here and we’d be happy to discuss.

Cheers

James


(Adam Williams) #2

Initial thoughts: Sounds like a really interesting concept, though I’d love it if I could see a little extra information prior to signing up.


Since you posted here, I did give it a go and sign-up. The quiz was interesting, had to guess on one or two questions:

I guess the point you’re trying to make is that consumers don’t know as much about the brands as they think they do, although I’m unsure to what extent not knowing the parent company illustrates that. If you’d asked me the name Monzo incorporated under, I think I’d have trouble answering too.

So now I have an account… and the dashboard is essentially a referral system? I’d have expected to see independent brands around Leamington Spa (the place I registered with) here instead. It’s great to be offering shares to the community, but IMO that should be done elsewhere - not on the first page after you login when you haven’t used the app at all yet.

Next, I take a look at the brands page. I was sort of expecting to see some local brands listed here, but there’s just a big list instead. I’m unsure on what a “featured brand” is vs all the other brands, are the featured ones paying to be listed?

I conclude that Leamington Spa is probably categorised as being in the Midlands and take a look at the featured brands there. Northern Light Cinema looks pretty cool and I click through to the information page … and then I realise it’s actually over 70 miles away. The information page itself doesn’t seem very useful - I guess I’m more interested in reviews and testimonials than the names of the owners of the business. The company logo being 5 degrees askew doesn’t look brilliant. It’s nice to see they pay a living wage, but the description and the rest of the bulk of the page doesn’t seem very useful to a consumer. The non-featured brands just appear to contain information from Wikipedia.

IMO you should consider transitioning from “mostly-static” to a more dynamic/social experience. Show companies relevant to the user (near to them if possible). Clarify what a featured brand is, maybe use the “likes” on a brand to figure out which to display, consider changing the dashboard to show more relevant information for a first-time user.

As I said, I really like the concept - it just seems at a pretty early stage to be opening up the site right now.


(James Bryant) #3

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.

James


(Adam Williams) #4

Hey James

Thanks a bunch for your detailed reply - didn’t come across as defensive at all, I appreciate the fact you responded to all it of it rather than just a “thanks for your feedback” :slight_smile:

Sounds like a great plan. https://blog.codinghorror.com/version-1-sucks-but-ship-it-anyway/ comes to mind (absolutely not saying it sucks, but the philosophy there is great – actually shipping is the important part!).

Just my luck to stumble upon the cinema at first then :laughing:. You’re absolutely right regarding Monzo and eCommerce, I guess I was assuming a lot of them to be more local businesses.

Ah, so that is what the “featured” part means. Good to know, might be worth clarifying somewhere (or I missed an explanation somewhere on the site). I am surprised Innocent aren’t independent actually but I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised, a lot of the major brands do tend to be owned by big conglomerates.

Can understand where you’re coming from with the focus on growth and it’s definitely a valuable page. I guess my main complaint there was that it was a little jarring to get hit with straight after logging in and I’d personally find it a difficult sell right now because I’d have to rely on explaining the concept rather than pointing to anything cool that had been implemented and was available. Monzo did well here by having the pre-paid scheme people could sign up with. Even if it’s a newsletter or some more immediately useful content for e.g. deciding on somewhere to eat or whatever, it’s something people are more likely to share with friends I guess.

Interesting, didn’t realise that. I can imagine it’s difficult to accomplish everything you’d like to with limited resources. Have you considered open sourcing the site? I’m still a little unclear on the business plan so not 100% sure if it’s feasible for you to do this, but you may find people are willing to help out adding functionality. A lot of people care about trying to go for independent brands (and shopping locally too) and so I could see people wanting this to succeed.

Yeah… it’s always difficult with user content when you start out. I wonder if you could gamify it a little (Google Maps’ local guides is a good example here). As you mention, development does take time for sure - but pull requests could help here.

I’m a security consultant, personally. I spend a lot of time doing security research, trying to break things etc but I’ve done a few years in web development positions.

Yeah, would agree on some sort of label like that - helps to handle expectations for sure. Props for actually getting it out the door and getting so many brands already involved, it’s more than I could do for sure :slight_smile:

Not a problem, thanks for addressing everything I brought up and I wish you the best of luck with the site.

Cheers,
Adam


As an aside: it’s a shame this topic has been flagged/hidden, I’ll ask why that’s the case, because I don’t really see this as spam.


(Rika Raybould) #5

The topic received a couple of user flags and was automatically hidden by the forum system. I’ve reinstated it. :slightly_smiling_face:


(Colin Robinson) #6

Love what you’re doing - I only managed 40%!

#ShopLocal


(James Bryant) #7

Thanks Colin! If you know any cool brands, we should be featuring, please do let us know.

James