CTO of Not On The High Street, Hugh Fahy, has described how the online marketplaces uses data from its retail partners, products and customers to make strategic business decisions. He said open data is creating “amazing opportunities” for the brand.

“Our approach is to surround this [data] with technology,” he said, speaking at the Millennial 2020 event in London last week. “That technology and the combination of people and platform – the more openly we can expose this data.”

Unlike the major marketplaces, like eBay and Amazon, Not On The High Street shares its data back with its retail partners which helps them develop and improve their products going forward.

“Historically, marketplaces wanted to protect its position … but we want to bring our partners to the fore,” explained Fahy, who said the marketplace has account managers for its larger retail partners which help provide input into product development

“There are many other ways, including an open forum for partners to swap stories between themselves. This community and acceleration is beneficial for all partners in the ecosystem.”

Fahy said the changing online landscape, along with Not On The High Street’s million Facebook followers and 300,000 Instagram followers, provide rich datasets relating to what customers are interested in.

Not On The High Street has 2.5 million active users shopping 200,000 products from over 5,000 retail partners.

“We have a fairly rich dataset and when you put all that together you see the trends that are emerging,” explained Fahy, pointing to prosecco as the most recent gift-trend spotted by the marketplace.

“A range of [prosecco] products came onto the marketplace and sold out very quickly, this created a huge opportunity for our partners around the prosecco trend."

Fahy also said he is a fan of open source technologies which allows Not On The High Street to build digital products and services very quickly.

“It’s amazing how the acceleration in productivity has happened in last ten years,” he said. “The first 20 years of my career, it was quite predictable, but the last ten have been empowered by West Coast innovation and standards, which have made an amazing ecosystem.”

Fahy described how open source means he does not need to buy a “massive super-geared platform” anymore, but build very quickly using several different off-the-shelf components.

“When you apply this to retail with social-economic trends, all this stuff is coming together – particularly for the millennial generation – and there is a real change in ways of working and the way people interact with retailers.”

Combining open source with A/B testing methodologies is also a technique Fahy is adopting at Not On The High Street. He said A/B testing leads to a Darwinian evolution where some aspects of the website will survive and reinforce its strengths, while other aspects will be dialled down.

“The science piece is really interesting, much can be done through evolution, sometimes you’ve got to make the big intuitive leap, but using those data sets you have a real understanding of your business and what can help you in those big business decisions and the more organic incremental improvements which help experience.”