Head of Product's advice for companies looking to scale their online presence | Q&A with Danielle Downs

Q&A with Danielle Downs

As the Head of Product, Danielle Downs has expertise in building and scaling marketplaces to meet the ever-increasing demand for online sales for scale-up businesses and large enterprises.

Q&A with Danielle Downs

How can digital marketplaces help businesses scale?

Having a digital marketplace is now essential to scaling any B2B or B2C business. If you’re reliant on in-person or manual sales channels, your potential transaction volumes will always be constrained by the size of your sales team and the number of customers that can find you.  The pandemic accelerated the already growing trend towards doing business online; allowing even small and medium-sized businesses to trade 24/7 on a global scale.    

Digital marketplaces are a great way to increase brand awareness through search engine optimisation (SEO) and get in front of potential customers before your competitors while increasing the bandwidth of your sales operation and maximising revenue.  

Not only is it critical to have an online sales channel, but the trading mechanism is also important.  Many businesses these days have a fixed price online (eCommerce) offering, but it isn’t the most suitable model for every market.  If the potential value of your product is unknown, you may want a model that facilitates price discovery, like an English Forward (winner takes all) auction.  If your market has an uneven balance between supply and demand, you may want to consider a capacity auction or sealed tender with a matching algorithm to get the best from your marketplace.  

Can you introduce us to NovaFori platform? What technology do you use to make data science easier?

The NovaFori platform is flexible, scalable, and modular, so we can tailor it to the specific requirements of each client’s business and sector.  We can also integrate with clients’ existing ecosystems; for example, if they already have a customer records management (CRM) or content management (CMS) solution, we can integrate with them to deliver a seamless experience.

Being hosted in the cloud, we can easily scale up and down to meet clients’ needs.  Some of our clients have very high-profile auctions that attract way above-average traffic and bid volumes in a very concentrated timeframe.  Our auto-scaling solution enables us to meet the increased demand when required but scale back down when traffic returns to more typical levels, making it highly performant but very cost-effective for our clients.  

In terms of data science, we understand that every market and marketplace is different, so we use analytics tracking to understand buyer and seller behaviour and combine it with transaction data to offer at-a-glance dashboards.  We can then look at ways to optimise conversion, sell-through rates and ultimately revenue, such as by making intelligent product recommendations, optimising the balance between supply and demand, or segmenting personas to match the right buyers to the right products at the right time.

What are the most important considerations when looking to build a marketplace?  

There are several low-cost eCommerce and auction solutions on the market, but they struggle with scale. Once your market ‘takes off’, you can see exponential growth in, for example, bidding activity, which can put a severe strain on your infrastructure and, consequently your customers’ experience.  

There can be a dangerous sense of complacency for businesses that believe they have “ticked the digital box” because they have an online storefront.  Ten years ago, it was enough to just have a website that did well in search engine results, but the market is rapidly becoming more sophisticated.  With the rise in online sales, customers are also growing warier of buying things online and at the same time, the market is becoming increasingly crowded.  Businesses need to have a professional online presence and a secure, stable marketplace that buyers and sellers feel they can trust, or they’ll simply go elsewhere.  Reputation is more important than ever, with people now frequently seeking reviews from trusted independent websites before making purchasing decisions.  

Fundamentally, if your marketplace experience is outdated or the technology can’t keep pace with the growth of your business, it will fail to thrive.

Why do companies outsource IT projects?  

I think companies do it for a few different reasons but the main and probably best one is that IT isn’t their core business. Unless you’re a software development company, it only makes sense to outsource IT to experts, enabling you to focus on running your business.  

What is your experience with businesses that have tried to develop their own online platform?  

Digital transformation is hard, and many companies attempt to build their own digital solutions, believing it to be quicker and cheaper than outsourcing, but it is often more complex than they first thought.  Before they know it, their IT department has become a significant proportion of their overall headcount and a huge distraction from running their core business. Worse still, they may find themselves disappointed with the results or that their solution won’t scale.  

NovaFori partners with our clients for the long haul, helping them to develop their marketplace while they focus on growing their business.  We have the benefit of over a decade’s experience in helping a wide range of businesses build digital sales channels, online logistics solutions, data analytics and much more.  By leveraging our expertise and utilising our core marketplace platform, clients can avoid a lot of the pitfalls experienced by those trying to go it alone.

In what other key ways has NovaFori evolved to meet changing customer demands since the start of the business in 2011?

As a company, we have scaled from a small start-up with some great ideas and landed some big-name clients early on to a staff of over a hundred people in the UK and Spain, supporting industries across Europe, North America and Asia. It’s been a fascinating journey, and the delivery of our Next Generation solution is an accumulation of all our combined experiences during that journey.

Migrating to the cloud has been a huge breakthrough, which has enabled us to offer best-of-breed performance, security, intrusion detection/protection and of course, auto-scaling.  

We have also adopted agile working practices, enabling us to take a more flexible approach to building marketplaces.  Instead of fixed scope and strict change control, we can react quickly to changing market needs and world events that affect our clients’ priorities.  It also allows clients to test their theories, get fast feedback and make course adjustments along the way.

Tell us, what’s next for NovaFori?

We will keep striving to improve and innovate, just like our marketplaces, ensuring that we can meet the needs of businesses looking to get the most out of their digital transformation.  

Our Data Science team is also working on some exciting product lines that will enable more personalised experiences for our client’s customers.

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NovaFori specialises in bringing technology and business together. We combine our expertise in product development and delivery management to build and design the right digital platform for your unique business needs.

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