What is using Not On The High Street (NOTHS) really like for a retailer? We spoke to one to find out - here's the key things you need to know before committing to working with them.
It's very easy to use the CMS (Content Management System) for managing orders. A client of ours said that it's the "best we've used out of Amazon, EBay, Culture Label etc, especially when setting up the shop initially".
They break everything down into chunks which makes it easy to use and to understand. This includes direction with key-wording, writing effective descriptions, categorising products, and creating multiple variations within listings. Everything is reviewed and vetted by an editorial team at NOTHS.
For order management, you have quick notifications of orders and also customer queries. Icons/alerts help identify 'special' orders such as express, gifts with no receipts and international orders.
It's a favourite to everyone who's had to deal with it here. Though one of our clients believed that their "own website order management tool is a close second".
The listings themselves are attractive and they include cross promotion to your other items and allow for multiple variations of products. Thumbnail images are big and clear.
Good promotion activity
They do a lot of advertising/promotion. They use TV, radio, billboards and magazine ads to deliver a great promotional strategy. Great search results (for our client) on Google, often above EBay + Amazon.
Efficient Customer Service
Good customer service, quick to respond to queries, problems both due to orders or technical issues with your shop. If you qualify for their different partner groups, you also get a dedicated account manager to help.
They offer a lot of ongoing advice as well, through the CMS homepage, newsletters reminding you of upcoming holidays, info on photography and so on.
Exposure and Customer Reviews
Good exposure, for example, you can be involved in magazine features through them, they also often use your products for promotional shoots of their own.
Customer reviews are included on product listing pages.
There is a (one-off) account fee, and then they take 30% commission with VAT (this increases if you apply to be in one of their catalogues). By the time you have spent a further 30% on raw materials, 5% on postage you only have a profit of 35% for your time, effort and creativity.
This type of charge is not uncommon, but on the more expensive side compared with other similar services and and they also frown upon you for increasing your prices to account for this compared to your RRP elsewhere.
Another concern is it's "relatively difficult to get into one of the catalogues, especially around holiday times"
A lot of "junk" products
There is a lot of junk on their site and they clearly support the high volume sellers.
The higher quality and bespoke products sometimes get lost in the waves of similar stodge.
Cross promotion & PR are a problem
They are very strict with cross promotion, you cannot add flyers to parcels and they encourage you use their stationery to brand packaging, so NOTHS is not a place to generate attention or traffic to your shop or website. You are a partner, but under their brand.
You cannot sell to major retailers on the high street, but as far as we know this only applies to individual products and not your entire brand.
Any press exposure is through NOTHS allowing little room for maneuver with regards to PR activities.
Close monitoring provides little leeway
They monitor communication closely, and will flag up email addresses/telephone numbers for some customer enquiries. A related point is that it is difficult to offer discounts for large orders due to the high fees mentioned above.
Getting high on NOTHS ranking system is tough
It can be difficult to get customers on the first couple of pages of search results on their site, even if you've been selling for some time.
Tracking stock is a huge issue
The back end of NOTHS doesn't let you track stock. This causes big problems for retailers because if you have 10 of something in stock and 12 people buy these then ultimately two will be disappointed, meaning constant policing is needed. To make matters worse you are penalised for declining orders, so if those two peoples orders are declined you'll be penalised twice for something which is NOTHS problem.
Products are sold cheaper on Amazon
NOTHS is now losing out on sellers to Amazon. This takes away from the unique element of NOTHS as products on their website are meant to be one offs, however you will find a lot of the time that the same product will be on Amazon cheaper. There is a likely chance that customers would be shocked at the realisation they are getting a product which isn't unique to NOTHS, and is also cheaper somewhere else. For example this product:
No statistics on their CMS
So there may have been a mention of some off the great things the CMS can do, however it gives absolutely no statistics. You can't see:
- Traffic to store
- How many people have abandoned cart (something we advise highly)
- Which products are most popular by link
These are essential to understanding interest in new products. For example if 100 people are looking at it, but not buying it then the product isn't worth putting up.
The pro's and con's need to be weighed up when committing to Not On The High Street, if you feel that the strengths far outweigh the constraints then NOTHS is for you.
For a startup NOTHS is a great way to gain brand exposure, but do keep in mind the level of control they have over your online retail presence.
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