Marketplaces offer a lifeline as high street declines: Ella d’Amato of Notonthehighstreet

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Marketplaces offer a lifeline as high street declines,” is how Ella d’Amato of Nototonthehighstreet describes the role of online intermediation platforms in the changing retail environment.

Notonthehighstreet (NOTHS) is ‘the home of thoughtful gifts’, the leading curated modern marketplace connecting the best small creative businesses with the world.

Founded in 2006 by Holly Tucker MBE and Sophie Cornish MBE, the brand now connects 3 million customers to 5,000 creative small businesses, from across the country, who sell through the marketplace.

NOTHS has experienced a high degree of positive change over the last few years. Despite a recently challenging economic and political climate, says Ella, performance has exceeded their expectations.

Last year saw 20 NOTHS ‘partners,’ an internal phrase used to call merchants who trade on the platform as it’s akin to entering a partnership, achieved more than 1 million in sales.

‘Marketplaces are unrivalled’

Speaking to Tamebay, Ella d’Amato chief commercial and marketing officer of NOTHS says that marketplaces are unrivalled. It’s the ease and convenience for customers and the opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to reach a global customer base – making marketplaces an epicentre of trading.

However, as the landscape becomes more populated, the onus is on marketplace sellers to match the increasing level of competition with their customer service. Experiential retail says Ella, and unparalleled customer experience must become sellers focus to outmanoeuvre the competition.

In December 2018, NOTHS brought to life the idea of experiential retail. This saw a pilot of two Christmas-inspired pop-up stores in Westfield London and Waterloo Station. More than 400 sellers’ products were displayed in a physical environment to show off their craftsmanship skills in each unique product. Our ongoing focus, says Ella, is to continue to connect consumers and our favourite independents in the omnichannel experience.

Ella d’Amato on anti-competitive conduct regulation

While marketplaces serve as an ecosystem for sellers, they can also become a territory for unilateral trading practices.

In April 2018, the European Commission proposed an EU Regulation on fairness and transparency for businesses trading on online marketplaces.

Ella says that NOTHS’ community believes that platform-to-business (P2B) policy is an important milestone for marketplaces. It’s a first-ever regulation in the world, says Ella, that addresses fairness and transparency within the online marketplace environment. Its focus to protect SMEs and traders comes at a time when some leading organisations have come under fire for anti-competitive conduct. March and April 2019 only, saw Amazon and Google facing anti-trust probes over dominance abuse.

Delivery speed vs nature of a product

The speed of delivery is vital to our customers, says Ella, but they choose to shop with us because they want something unique, thoughtful and often hand-crafted. It’s the nature of a product that needs to be considered before the next-day delivery is offered to a customer. NOTHS’ community of artisan sellers design products according to customers’ wishes after they press a purchase button – also enabling shoppers to bring a human touch to sellers’ operations.

With that in mind, says Ella, not all of our partners ship products as soon as an order is placed. Customers are understanding of personalisation element added to their experience and are happy to wait a little longer for a gift that evokes a perfect emotional connection for the giver and recipient. However, bridging the delivery and products’ production speed gap is key. More than 50% of our products, says Ella, offer an express shipping option to accelerate the imagination gap of ordering and receiving a product.

Sparking products’ interest via photography

Product photography highlights the individual characteristics of a brand. Inspiring and engaging product imagery coveys the lifestyle and emotion of a seller – humanising a brand and bringing them closer a shopper. It is what makes NOTHS’ partners stand out from the crowd and draw new customers in. However, the nature of online marketplaces takes away the ability to touch and feel a product before committing to buying it. Product photography has to ‘work’ hard to secure sales.

The quality and uniqueness of a product should never be underestimated as a way to differentiate either. Small businesses need to be feeding their imaginations to continually inspire new designs.

Last year, NOTHS launched a new inspiration platform called SPARK, says Ella, for their partners to complement their creative design process. NOTHS analyses consumer insight and tracks the cycles and evolution of key design trends to ensure their partners have access to a unique collection of rich and inspiring content.

Advice for marketplace merchants

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, says Ella, always keep in front of mind the power of building a human connection. Sellers must look for creative and inspiring ways to emphasise the thought and effort that has gone into the making of their products. The little details are important, from the design to the service, to the craftsmanship. Our advice to sellers is – work on building this connection right the way through the customer journey. In today’s crowded market, that’s key.


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