When it comes to gift-giving and “niche” products, Notonthehighstreet has created mass appeal with its offerings and a business model that links independent producers and businesses that have a limited physical store to a web presence.
Speaking to Retail Gazette, Notonthehighstreet chief commercial and marketing officer Ella d’Amato said she and her team were preparing for the online retailer’s “biggest Christmas yet”.
With the Covid-19 pandemic causing a tremendous shift to online shopping and consumers seeking to support smaller businesses, d’Amato said Notonthehighstreet traded as profitably as it normally trades over Christmas during the lockdown months of April, May and June.
“I feel a tiny bit bad saying this, but we’ve had a really good period,” d’Amato reflected.
“We’ve benefited from 60 per cent of our small businesses already working from home. We didn’t have a distraction or any operational challenges.
“One of the most amazing things I’ve seen is how quickly the small businesses have pivoted, and how agile they’ve been.”
Notonthehighstreet supports 5000 small businesses, and d’Amato is responsible for helping them sell and grow.
“When I joined in 2016, I was responsible for helping the commercial offer and the products offer, my job was to help drive new categories and expand,” she said.
“Then they decided to give me both jobs. It was a very steep learning curve.”
D’Amato’s experience comes from serving as managing director and chief executive at advertising and marketing agency Drum, where many of her clients were retail clients, including the likes of John Lewis.
Interestingly, Notonthehighstreet was another one of d’Amato’s clients when founder Holly Tucker and chief executive Barrie Seidenberg offered her a position at the online marketplace.
“When they first asked me, I said no because I was still growing Drum and really enjoying it,” d’Amato recalled.
“Then I was on my second maternity leave when they contacted me again to consider the commercial offer.
“Notonthehighstreet is a purpose driven business and I felt like it was a really good opportunity for me.
“I understood and I knew the brand. Since I joined in 2016, the business has seen lots of changes.”
D’Amato added that she has been a Notonthehighstreet customer since its inception. So when she first joined, she was able to back herself up by conceding the business had lost its way. It also gave her the added responsibility of helping innovate the brand.
“When I looked at the insight and data, I saw that customers said we had lost what was making us special before – we lost our unique product proposition,” she said.
“I was thrown into the fire when I was first joined because customers were saying that our website was overwhelming as there were too much information, so we reacted to it by completely transforming the site.
D’Amato said part of her job was to help customers “reconnect” with Notonthehighstreet.
“We’ve worked with all of our small businesses to make sure what they’re curating for us is really unique,” she explained.
“Last Christmas, we spent quite a lot of time with our core businesses, educating them around the customer mindset and creating products that really fit into that mindset that are unique and different.
“We’ve completely transformed our look and the feel of our aesthetic, our tone of voice, and our positioning in the market.
“We changed the way we connect with customers in terms of our empathy.
“Any fast growing ecommerce businesses goes through a lot of change and that’s a good sign. If you want to grow, you’ve got to innovate, and you’ve got to adapt.”
D’Amato told Retail Gazette that the transformation has had a positive effect on the business in terms of customer retention.
“The return rate of our customers is very high because they emotionally connect with our offerings,” she said.
“My team and I changed the ‘e’ in ecommerce to emotional – emotional commerce. So you have built a human connection.
“A lot of people look at ecommerce, in comparison to stores and think ‘oh, you can’t have a human connection’, and they think the human connection needs to be done in store, whereas online is just a platform.
“I fundamentally disagree with that. We communicate with our customers through every touch point.”