The Uberisation of Business: Interior Design
March 13, 2016
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]by Sharon Costi
Interior design has traditionally been an exclusive service reserved for the rich and famous, resulting in beautiful spaces taunting us from the pages of glossy magazines. At Decology we want to make interior design accessible to everyone.
Inspirational websites like Houzz, Remodelista, Apartment Therapy, House to Home and countless interiors and lifestyle blogs have brought us a step closer to picture perfect homes – thanks to realistic photography, handy hints and tips and online shopping links, but a bespoke design service has always remained at arm’s length.
However, the design market could be on the brink of a complete revolution as the collaborative economy, or ‘Uber economy’ as it is sometimes referred to, is finding a foothold in creative industries making previously unobtainable luxuries more accessible and affordable than ever. This shift is evident in the number of crowd-sourced interior design platforms launched in the US since 2014, raising over $40m in venture capital and engaging hundreds of designers who have completed thousands of projects.
The idea is so far untried and untested in the UK, which is where Decology comes in – we’re a London-based start-up bringing the interior design concept to this country for the first time. Clients post projects and receive bids from multiple designers, before choosing a winner who then works online and collaboratively with the client for a fixed fee. The result is a seamless ‘shop-the-look’ service.
We think Decology could potentially transform the interior design industry in the UK, making the service open to more people and creating more work for more designers. Here’s four reasons why:
Spurred on by the rise of Uber, originally a black car chauffeur service in San Francisco, collaborative economy start-ups have exceled at disrupting markets in luxury segments.
Private jets from Stratajet, luxury holiday villas from Airbnb and Onefinestay, personal sytlists from Stitch Fix – all represent an Uber for their respective industries because the latent demand exists – large numbers of customers that aspire to use luxury services, but can’t afford to access them through traditional means.
Our research indicates there is significant demand for an Uber interior design service in the UK. How many potential clients are there that would love to work with an interior designer but can’t afford one? We think hundreds of thousands. In a country where 50% of homeowners refurbish at least one room every year, but less than 5% use the services of a professional, there is bound to be unsatisfied demand.
Decology enables designers and clients to share the design process workload and communicate seamlessly online. This eliminates the need of lengthy site visits and the integrated online shopping service further streamlines the design journey. The result is a service that is more affordable for the client, more profitable for the designer and less time consuming for both.
There are, of course, some limitations. Decology focuses on the decoration and styling aspect of interior design. However, some start-ups in other countries offer full building, design and architectural services, such as Arcbazar in the US and CoContest in Italy.
Virtual design is an exciting and flexible new way for interior designers to expand their business. For young and talented designers, Decology can be a career kickstarter. Whereas the traditional system might hinder their relative inexperience, with Decology they can use their tech savvy skills to make up this shortfall by excelling in other areas, such as computer-aided design.
As many young designers struggle to find full-time, well paid jobs, connecting directly with potential clients through Decology not only represents a way to learn new key skills, but potentially complement an existing salary.
For more established designers, venturing into the digital design space, would not only mean developing expertise in an area that promises to be the ‘next big thing’, it will also mean reaching out to new clients in a new market segment. In the same way fashion labels have used diffusion lines and high street collaborations to attract new customers, so can established designers leverage their brand and experience to expand into the digital design area.
The flexibility of an online platform also means designers can choose when and how much work to take on, which can aid with utilisation in slow times.
Finally, the big enabler for this leap in the interior design industry is of course the connectivity. Faster more reliable broadband access and platforms like Skype provide the backbone. Technology in the interior design industry itself has evolved. There are multiple digital 3D modelling platforms like SketchUp and AutoCAD that are a world apart from hand-drawn sketches.
Additionally, most suppliers today have 3D rendered sketches of their products ready to be used on those platforms, further streamlining the process. For the client, cloud based apps can be used to find and catalogue inspiration, such as Pinterest, or take on greater technical elements like with Floorplanner. Decology is the last piece in the puzzle, bringing demand and supply together to collaborate, create and monetise the opportunity.
Virtual design is an unstoppable industry trend, and marketplaces promoting it are the tools to carve its niche. The beauty of the ‘collaborative economy’ is it promises, among other things, to overcome the hurdles of scale, accessibility and affordability and let those left out in the cold carve a space of their own. This expands the marketplace and makes it stronger, rather than intensifying competition.