Notonthehighstreet.com plans to focus on the customer experience by bringing innovative technologies such as Apple Pay to its website and holding more offline events, after raising investment of £21m.
The marketplace for creative small businesses plans to use the funding, which comes in a round led by magazine and digital publisher Hubert Burda Media, as it expands categories and builds its position in the gifting market. Gifts are an important part of Notonthehighstreet’s sales – and experiential gifts are the fastest growing category within that. The company will invest in marketing and brand partnerships to grow its position, while working with partners to bring innovative products to the site.
One use of technology will be to bring Apple Pay to the Notonthehighstreet.com website. The company already uses the payment method on its Gift Finder app, and says it has helped boost sales conversion by 200%, compared to traditional credit card checkouts.
The marketplace plans more “physical manifestations of the online marketplace,” following on from its Open Door event. Its next offline event is scheduled for Stylist Live in October.
“Notonthehighstreet.com was born out of the belief that customers want products that are more thoughtful, unique and personal and that, through technology, we could connect thousands of independent businesses – the makers of these great products – with customers around the world,” said Notonthehighstreet.com chief executive Simon Belsham.
“This purpose remains even more relevant today in a world where customers are craving something more than the ubiquity of the mass market. Finding an investor that shared our vision and could provide strategic support, as well as new funds to support our multi-year growth plan, was key.
“Burda has a longstanding reputation as an investor in cutting-edge consumer and technology businesses and an international reach that will help us accelerate the potential we see both at home and overseas.”
Martin Weiss, managing director at Burda Principal Investments, which publishes Your Home and Wedding magazines in the UK and Elle and Elle Decoration in Germany, said: “Notonthehighstreet.com has built up a very successful ecommerce business beyond the classic retail model that fits very well with our portfolio. We see significant growth potential for this unique business, both in and outside the UK, making it an obvious partner for us as we continue to grow our portfolio of consumer and technology brands internationally.”
Notonthehighstreet.com will also use the funding to invest in the technology and operations that enable its 5,000 sellers to use its platform. Its Pitch Up programme enables start-ups to present their products to the marketplace, while it is also working with the University of the Arts to encourage art students to design products.
The news comes as Notonthehighstreet reported a 19% rise in gross sales for the year to March 31 2016, compared with the previous 12 months, and turned in earnings before interest, tax and asset writedowns of £1.6m, down from £3m a year earlier. Five per cent of sales came from international shoppers last year – Notonthehighstreet.com ships to 154 countries – and the business aims to improve its reach both at home and abroad as it grows.
Notonthehighstreet.com was founded by Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish in 2006, and in its last financial year it made a string of new appointments, hiring Belsham as chief executive, and Poundland chairman Darren Shapland as chairman.