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Notonthehighstreet: how an online market gets physical (NOTHS) was founded by Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish in 2006. It has made a splash in recent years with its focus on the customer experience, in particular by bringing innovative technologies such as Apple Pay to its website in 2016 and holding more offline events. It has also recently continued to push the boat out to deliver even more for customers, after raising investment of £21m two years ago.

NOTHS is a marketplace for creative small businesses to sell original and handmade items, and has used the funding round to expand categories and build its position in the gifting market. Gifts are an important slice of sales, with experiential gifts the fastest-growing category within that. The company has invested in marketing and brand partnerships to grow its position, while working with partners to bring innovative products to the site.

One use of customer-focused technology, as mentioned, was to bring Apple Pay to the NOTHS website in mid-2016, well before many other retailers. The company was already using the payment method on its Gift Finder app and said at the time that it helped to boost sales conversion enormously compared with traditional credit card checkouts.

The marketplace has also rolled out more “physical manifestations of the online marketplace”, following on from an Open Door event it held to mark its 10-year anniversary in 2016.

The main investor in NOTHS is Burda Principal Investments, and Burda’s MD Martin Weiss says what’s striking is how NOTHS has built up a very successful ecommerce business beyond the classic retail model.

As well as investing heavily in technology and operations that enable its 5,000 sellers to use the platform, its Pitch Up programme enables startups to present their products to the marketplace, while it is also working with universities to encourage art students to design products.

The three-day experiential shopping pop-up it created in 2016 has been built on subsequently to extend the customer experience, including some new partnerships with the design and fashion industries.

The Open Door pop-up that really moved the dial though was at London’s Old Spitalfields Market. Consumers were able to step through eight interactive ‘doorway experiences’ that brought the online marketplace’s product categories to life. The business owners that use NOTHS as a sales platform were making and selling their wares on site as fans of the brand were also able to pre-book masterclasses on the likes of tea mixology and calligraphy.

Sally Bendelow, creative product director at NOTHS, said at the time: “Customers love the ease of discovering products online but also crave tactile, sensory experiences, so we’re excited to offer immersive, physical and exclusive experiences that consumers can actively participate in, such as interactive workshops and demonstrations with our sellers.”

NOTHS also dipped its toe into the experiential pool back in 2015, when it unveiled Twitter-powered gifting vending machines. The Gift-O-Matic machines were located at train terminals in London and dispensed free products to individuals who stopped off to tweet @notonthehighstreet with their location and a hashtag that corresponded to a particular personality type from a selection on display.

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