Member Spotlight – Marketplace AMP

What is the future for traditional ecommerce websites? How will the Internet of Things change the way we buy and sell? And why is Suffolk a great place to do business?

We caught up with Matt Anderson, Commercial Director of MarketPlace AMP to learn more about his team of international e-commerce tech and retail marketing specialists.

Hi Matt, what can you tell us about Marketplace AMP?

We’re a specialist marketplace agency providing retail insight, tech solutions and thought leadership around everything to do with online marketplaces, including Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and Rakuten.

The company was born out of an interest in consumer and retail marketing. We bring together 20 years’ experience of working with big brands like Brabantia, B&Q, and Starbucks. Lots of these brands were looking for other areas to gain revenue from retail because of the decline in brick and mortar stores. Marketplace AMP evolved from there. We’re focused on helping brands understand the strategy of these marketplaces as a whole.

If you look at trends internationally, in China 80% of e-commerce sales come through online marketplaces. That figure is over 56% (2018) in the US including Amazon & eBay. We focus on consumer ecosystems around retail. Many people assume Amazon is just an ecommerce website, but they also offer grocery delivery with Amazon Fresh, and physical stores with Amazon Go. With voice assistants and the Internet of Things (IoT), consumers can effectively order food from their microwave or fridge via Amazon. As an agency, this makes it exciting for the future of retail.

We want to make our clients ‘amped’ to work with us. All our clients want to outrank, outbid, and outsell their competition. The last part is crucial, because if you’re not selling you won’t be ranked highly on any of the platforms. We exist to help solve their problems – what do I do with logistics? How do I integrate finance systems? – we take away pain and provide strategic thought leadership. We offer retail insight – what do consumers want? Should we look at new product development? – because we can see these trends.

Being based in the East of England, how important is location for your business?

We’re based in Suffolk, where my wife and co-founder grew up. She’s very fond of it, and its a good place to do business, with easy connectivity to London and Cambridge. Amazon’s Alexa team is based in Cambridge, which is great for us as we’re launching our new Alexa Skills facility. It’s just 40 minutes on the train and we can meet with the Alexa team there. Stansted is also really convenient for meeting with our Dutch clients.

As marketplace specialists, you operate in quite a niche area. Do you face much competition?

We are in a niche area. There are some agencies that offer marketplace marketing as an add-on, but it’s a whole discipline in itself. It’s so vast. Were competing with agencies on a global scale. We’ve been approached by a Canadian company, for instance, to work with clients in the EU – so we’re an international business as well as one that supports local clients – such as Stokes Sauces. It’s a really exciting place to be.

What skills are essential to the business? And what do you look for when recruiting?

The skills that drive our business are a good digital understanding, strong SEO and ecommerce copywriting, and people with sound commercial knowledge. We have a masters graduate from University Campus Suffolk (UCS), former Rakuten employees, and staff with backgrounds in PR and digital marketing. Being so close to world class colleges and universities, theres a pool of local talent here and the message is that there are lots of really cool jobs for graduates right on their doorstep with no need to go to London!

We are a family run business and a close team. At the same time, we’re looking for people that are AMPed, excited to work with us on marketplaces and who are inquisitive. Its a niche area, so we dont expect everyone to have worked in it before.

We’re really keen on finding people who have had a go at selling on eBay or Amazon themselves, who want to join a growing agency and accelerate their learning. People with entrepreneurial flair, experience in pricing, content, and marketing, a commercial nous and understanding of what makes businesses tick.

You don’t have to be an expert in Amazon to come to us. Even if you’re just tinkering around and having a go at developing for Alexa – we’re interested in hearing from you. Were growing quickly, so if there isn’t an opportunity available for you now, it’s still worth getting in touch with us.

Can you give us an insight into the culture of Marketplace AMP?

We have our ‘Just One Thing’ meetings – something interesting we’ve found to share which keeps us inquisitive, wanting to learn, and thinking about our approach. We don’t work inside marketplaces, so we have to figure out what changes mean to our clients and work out the best strategy. There’s the element of being creative with engaging content that stands out, as marketplaces are very competitive. We want to amplify sales ethically too. We get a buzz from implementing a strategy and seeing our clients grow. We get amped, our clients get amped, and we all move forwards.

The rise in online marketplaces has left many brick and mortar stores feeling the pressure. But what about traditional eCommerce websites – are they also under threat?

It’s great to have a direct relationship with the consumer, but do you need to put lots of resource into an e-commerce website when you could see far greater returns on Amazon? 21 million people a month use Amazon – how many people are visiting your website? You still need to make sure you rank properly and are visible, but you’re accessing that enormous market place from day one.

The way we access these marketplaces is also changing. How will voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, affect the way we buy and sell in the future?

The Internet of Things (IoT) in the home is a key focus for us. Alexa has already been embedded in over 20,000 different devices, from washing machines to cars. If you remember something you need when driving home, you’ll be able to ask Alexa to order it for you. What impact does this have on Google? SEO? Will pay-per-click (PPC) be relevant for brands any longer?

Our new Alexa Skills facility will focus on flash briefing type skills, or soft branding skills – such as recipes, for example. Alexa can return client branded recipes from a simple user request.

Currently the main issue is low awareness among consumers that it is possible to add skills to Alexa. You can do this with smart home products, such as smart light switches, that allow you to use Alexa to control your lighting. There is, however, a plethora of other skills, such as tennis coaching skills, the recipe arena, and flash briefings on updates about your interests. We see an opportunity to build Alexa Skills for our clients. That’s where we’re going as an agency, deeper into tech and the world of Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Are there any other technological developments that will affect the industry?

Programmatic AI learning will have a big impact on the sector. A major weakness of traditional brick and mortar stores is they have lots of money tied up in large amounts of stock to try to fulfil customers’ needs. They can’t match the breadth and choice that marketplaces have and struggle to predict what consumers want to buy. This is a major weakness.

Amazon is already using programmatic learning. A sunscreen brand in the US used programmatic learning to find out what type of SPF should be stocked on Amazon in different states. Using AI, the company learned where to place stock around the states based on ethnicity and demand.

Similarly, JD.com set up an Amazon Go-style shop at Beijing airport that programmatically learned what type of products people wanted to buy. IoT and programmatic AI learning will certainly change the way we buy and sell. We’re developing tech around those areas to help guide our clients on what products they should be stocking.

What’s the latest news at Marketplace AMP?

We are delighted to have just appointed our new Non-Executive Director, Jo Vertigan to the Marketplace AMP Board. Not only is Jo the Chairman of the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor Delivery Board but he also brings with him a wealth of commercial experience. This includes structuring the first Sony UK and Amazon trading agreement in 2001, as well as previously running Sony UK’s Ecommerce business, which he successfully grew to be the largest in Europe. Jo also shares our future vision of how technology will influence our businesses and buying habits and he actively works with innovators in the digital space. He’s come onboard to help us see the big picture from a strategic point of view.

As one of our newest members, why did you join Tech East?

I was based in Bristol for many years and have seen how the ecosystems have grown there. We joined Tech East just before Christmas, looking to collaborate with other agencies and like-minded individuals. It’s easy to get very focused in our own business and miss new opportunities. We want to discover new tech together and come up with new ideas. Some of the tech we’re looking at might not be relevant to our business but someone else in the network might benefit. We’re keen not just to be a member, but also an advocate for the region.

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