eCommerce Podcast

Our podcast is raw, honest and damn right insightful, as we chat to some of the best minds in eCommerce

Hosted by Richard Hill

Ep 38:
Thomas Vosper:
It’s Time to Rethink the Way We Shop - The Start of a Brand New Marketplace

Thomas is the Co-Founder and CEO of aisle 3 – the brand new marketplace that’s here to change the way we shop. A true fighter, when he was knocked down by redundancy 8 months ago, he didn’t hesitate to pick himself back up again and is now on his way to creating the most efficient and transparent marketplace out there. 

aisle 3 already has a team around the world who are making this a reality and in this podcast, Thomas takes us through what he’s done to get to where he is today, as well as what trends we need to be looking out for in eCommerce and what the future of marketplaces looks like. 

This podcast has been all about taking risks and pursuing what you’re truly passionate about, and we can’t wait to see it pay off! 

eCom@One Presents 

Thomas Vosper

Thomas is the CEO and Co-Founder of aisle 3, a brand new shopping marketplace based in the UK. After being made redundant just before lockdown, Thomas identified a gap for an online marketplace that seeks to solve two of the biggest problems in eCommerce. aisle 3 was founded on the belief that shoppers should be fully informed when making purchases and should be able to base their decisions on the things that are most important to them, such as price, delivery and sustainability. 

In this podcast, Thomas takes us through how he started his business from scratch during the lockdown, what he’s learnt from the process and explains to us how his marketplace is exactly what the industry needs to form better connections between sellers and consumers. 

We discuss how eCommerce giants like Amazon have gone from strength to strength during the 2020 pandemic – however, is it time to stop feeding the eCommerce giants and start reaping the benefits of shopping with independent retailers? Maybe we need to start rethinking the way we shop. 

Join us on this podcast to hear Thomas’ story of how he went from redundancy to building a brand new marketplace, as well as discussions on how marketplaces can help your eCommerce store, the future of online marketplaces and much more. 

Topics Covered:

02:24 – Setting up aisle 3 during lockdown 

04:02 – Building an efficient and transparent marketplace

08:14 – Advice on getting investment when starting a business from scratch

14:40 – Trends to look out for in eCommerce

18:02 – The lipstick effect during lockdown 

19:37 – What a CSS is and why you need to be on one

28:25 – Rethinking consumer habits – why shoppers should think twice before shopping through eCommerce giants 

31:52 – Closing the gap between sellers and consumers

38:54 – Next steps for marketplaces 

40:59 – Who’s the ultimate guitar player?

43:14 – Book recommendation 

Richard Hill
Hi and welcome to another episode of eCom@One and today's guest is Thomas Vosper. Now, Thomas is the CEO and co-founder of aisle 3, a new eCommerce shopping marketplace here in the U.K.. How are you doing, Thomas?

Thomas Vosper
I'm really well, thank you for asking Richard. It's great to speak with you.

Richard Hill
Isn't it just. Thomas I've known for a couple of years now? We actually met at an expo, this seems to be quite a thread through quite a lot of our episodes where we meet amazing people in the eCommerce space and then they become partners and friends of the agency and friends and then we get them on the podcast! So someone who's got some brilliant insights into a lot of different areas around eCommerce that we're going to be chatting about over the next forty-five minutes or so. But I think it'd be good just the kick off with, give the guys a bit of background, really, I think tie that in nicely with how you set a business up during the start of lockdown of all times.

Thomas Vosper
Yeah, absolutely. And as you say, I miss the meetings that we have at industry events. I think it's been one of the big parts of working life that I've really missed over the last few months. And it's where I've probably spent most of my career bumping into people like yourself, Richard and agencies. I've been in eComm for about 14 years now. I started at Amazon back when there was about half a dozen of us on the UK marketplace team. And so as bizarre as it might seem, back when there was just toys and electronics and maybe baby products outside of the typical books and media. And so I survived six and a half years there across the full suite of products that we now take as a bit of a given that exist on Amazon. I went to Tesco for a couple of years to try and build a marketplace on their Tesco Direct general merchandise site. And then I spent the last three years on the price comparison sites, was unfortunately made redundant about two weeks before lockdown. And that was probably the kick after my time working across corporate for all of these years to branch out on my own with with an expert team around me.

Richard Hill
Yeah, I think that's it. That's the way lots of things have come out of lockdown. A lot of people have had a lot of sort of transition from either one role to another or having to, obviously certain people have had to close down their business and whatnot. And obviously that, you know two weeks before lockdown, you were made redundant, but obviously, in that time and fast-forward, what are we, sort of eight months ago, I guess that is, somewhere there? It's hard to even fathom what you've achieved from my point of view in the last eight months. Obviously an amazing journey this last eight months, you know, how crazy has it been actually setting up a business? What's that been like?

Thomas Vosper
Yeah, it's it's been staggering, really, given the circumstances. And I'm quite cognizant of the fact that I'm very lucky to work in an industry that's probably had the least impact around the global pandemic. If anything, as we see, and you'll probably see with your clients, eCommerce is booming for a lot of people. And it's quite hard to kind of stomach when there are so many individuals, particularly in hospitality, that are suffering so much at the moment. But at the same time, I think that my business in part probably exists and has grown at the pace it has because of the difficult circumstances for a start. I think one of the challenges that I would have growing the business is the idea of finding people to come into an office. I live in North West London, I've been based in London for most of my working life, and that in itself is quite a challenge. And so hiring everyone remotely has been a really good opportunity for us as a business to expand our talent pool globally. And so I think it's maybe worth just checking what we're trying to achieve and what we're trying to solve at aisle 3. And that's why the reach is far and wide in terms of who we're hiring. Firstly, I want to solve two things in eCommerce I think are still broken. And I think although many people will look at the increase of the likes of Amazon and the increase in sales for their clients, even even during these times, I still think there's two fundamental things that are broken in eCommerce, and one of them is the complete aggregation of products. Where there's more than one person selling a product. I think that shoppers should be able to always make an informed decision who they buy from and see all of their options so they can decide based on whatever is important to them, whether that's price, whether that's availability, locality, whether it's sustainability or they have a particular preference, or an affinity with a retailer. I want to make sure every purchase online is made by a shopper who's informed with all of their options. The second part, which traditional comparison sites also don't do a particularly good job of is what do you do when it's a unique product and it's a unique retailer and you're bringing that to market? How do how how do shoppers even find those products so soon?

Richard Hill
Yeah

Thomas Vosper
Because unless you are throwing 60 million pounds like Huel did at Facebook ads to get found, it's really hard to create that kind of hype and that kind of buzz and just get found by shoppers. And shoppers want to find new products and retailers and brands want to be found more effectively. So that's why we've created aisle 3 and to solve those two issues. And that meant that I kind of had to extend a talent pool of people across the globe to help that technical challenge, because it's phenomenally difficult to take multiple products from retailers and show them all on one page so that you as a shopper, if you're looking at a particular pair of trainers, don't need to click out onto multiple tabs to make sure you're getting the best deal.

Richard Hill
Yeah

Thomas Vosper
And what's also been really interesting though and the challenge as well is we probably live in a bit of a bubble here, certainly in London in terms of the impact of a pandemic and lockdown. But once you expand your workforce globally, for example, our designer was in Denver, so was caught up in the Black Lives Matter riots and there's conflict in Armenia where our head of machine learning is based, our UX guys in Belarus, which has gone through a lot of political turmoil and the guys in India have been affected by flooding. So all of this is happening outside of a pandemic. But it's it's crazy that there's so much difficulty for people all around the world.

Richard Hill
Yeah, but it's tech bringing us all together. So aisle 3, obviously we'll come on to some of the specifics there, but obviously brand new business in March. Obviously now you've got a very experienced team on board. And sort of I guess what we're saying is the pandemic's helped you to reach these people, to work as your team and to get real senior people on board regardless of location. So that's sort of you know, no office space because I know obviously you come from a background of big office, central London, that sort of background, but setting up a business and from zero in effect, with a lot of people already. I know that there's some interesting things that you've been working around funding, getting that initial funding. And I think the people listening in to the podcast, setting up a business, having an idea. Obviously you've definitely had the benefit of the pandemic in terms of that eCommerce, that massive rise of eCommerce, like the phoenix. You know I was just looking at Shopify shares again, I mention them quite a lot on the podcast, but it's one I did jump on back in March. So that's done me quite well. But but so eCommerce wise, it's obviously just crazy, crazy, crazy. But still, when we start from scratch in a market that's quite big the market you're in, you know getting that initial investment to invest in the people, the technology. Now what's some of the things you've done or some of the advice you'd give on some of the learnings from that process?

Thomas Vosper
Yes, I suppose the biggest thing is that overnight success takes years. And although we've managed to grow our business rapidly, we've only been able to do that through the back of years of experience, years of networks, connecting at events with partners and, you know, mutual partnerships over over a long, long period of time. And so everything that we've done over the last few months has been a combination of that and also a very clear vision that we could articulate right at the start that we found that we could stay as an investable business. We could talk to our network and our friends and family who are shoppers like the rest of us. And it's a shopper problem we're trying to solve. And they could see that what we were trying to do by combining all of the products and offers in the world into one platform was valuable. And so that was probably all we needed to take the leap of faith to actually fund the business and bootstrap the business before we even talked about external funding. So I think, you know, there are probably a couple of different circumstances that people see when they start a business. One is that they've prepared for years and they've maybe saved up some money or they've taken a loan out against their house or they've maybe got some friends or family to support them. Obviously coming off the back of redundancy, an unexpected sudden redundancy. We don't have the luxury of that. So I was very lucky to get support from Virgin startups. They provide unsecured startup loans. It's effectively a personal loan to get the business up and running. So we funded the business with 50000 pounds worth of startup loans and use that to very quickly compile a team and a strategy that would be an investable vehicle for industry specialists to invest in and support.

Richard Hill
Yup.

Thomas Vosper
So it very much took a great deal of stress and a leap of faith to take on that personal debt, to take on this challenge. And over the last eight and a half months, I've probably seen countless success stories of fundraising and growth on LinkedIn and social media. And you don't always see that. That's only one of the hundred. Right. The other ninety nine failed.

Richard Hill
They've seen how easy it is on the social media version, like everybody, yeah yeah.

Thomas Vosper
And it all looks incredibly easy. And of course it's not. And it's even more so once you start going out to external investors, because firstly you need to work very hard to refine your pitch. You need to be very honest when you don't know the answer and be able to. One I kind of refer to a bit of a boxer's fate, sometimes you get asked the question that they probably know the answer to, and it's more to see how you answer it than the actual answer you deliver. You know, I see all of those things that happen, but ultimately you need to make sure that you've got the team. And I've been very lucky to have a team around me who could back my vision and more importantly, execute on it.

Richard Hill
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you got the the whole sort of ups and downs of investment from, you know, you know, I've had a couple of people on the on the pod, who've obviously going into various or localized sort of angel networks. And as you said, the you know, the Virgin's specific where ultimately, you know, you're getting in front of people and it's just, you know, you've got to have, ultimately you've got to be prepared and have that strong, strong confidence, but a very well thought out business plan that, you know what you're talking about, obviously, but it's actually something which they may well do, which is the reality, because that's why they're you know, they have various interests and whatnot about that, they'll ask you something that you may not know, it's just about being honest and open and looking for those traits in people to invest in rather than maybe a bit, you know, making stuff up. That's genuinely not the case. I think we're having a fly over at the moment. I live three, four miles away from where the red arrows are based. So it can be fun sometimes, I don't know whether we caught that or not.

Thomas Vosper
Yes, it's probably sometimes that's good. But I think the thing that's often, people lose sight of in funding is, is it is actually real money and it is real, real people's money and particularly the level of an early stage business. You're asking people to back your vision, you as an individual and you as a team to execute that vision. And so it's very easy to lose sight of 'we raise X million from a fund that people haven't heard about in a country we've never been to'. But actually, you know, at the very early stage in raising money, you're asking people to back you and buy your vision and understand the problem that you're trying to solve and also have faith that you can solve it.

Richard Hill
Yeah, yeah. So great. Great great work. So people in the industry a long, long time ago. Well, fairly long, don't want to make you sound 60 or anything.

Thomas Vosper
Yeah make me sound old that's fine. The last eight and a half months, as exhilarating as they've been, have also aged considerably. 20 hours a day for seven days a week for eight and a half months. Does that, that's also the untold story of founding your own business.

Richard Hill
This is the first time isn't this, since we actually had a face to face meeting in a coffee shop in Lincoln in on the first week of February, March, somewhere there wasn't it. And then literally like two weeks later, we're in lockdown and you're setting up a business. It's the first time we've seen each other on camera like this is all face to face, obviously, we've spoken many times, but not had a call on Zoom, etc. So obviously seen a lot of things, over these years, obviously very early days, Amazon and so obviously seeing the progression of that. But what are some of the trends you're seeing at the moment, what are some of the trends that people should be looking out for in eCommerce?

Thomas Vosper
Well, the classic cop out answer to that is that online is growing, right? I mean, we saw that everything has been growing as people have been moving away from the high street because they haven't been able to go to the high street, and yet, despite the uncertain times, people were still spending online and then the government took what was probably going to be the biggest Q4 online by some country mile anyway, and put a week's worth, a month's worth of closing the high street to pour more fuel onto that online fire. And for the time of us having this discussion on a Tuesday after Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday, when probably every single advertiser and agency and technology partner has been running around like they're on fire, really, which will probably tack this analogy after the F1 this weekend as well. It's been an absolutely chaotic weekend for people. So I think I think just sort of some of the, taking a step back, some of the trends I've seen happen more generally have probably been some of the similar trends that you saw maybe coming out of the financial crisis. And I think that, you know, it's quite easy to look at the number of boxes coming into your house and thinking that Amazon is going to be the big winner in this. And I think that they almost certainly are going to be the big winner in this. But, whilst a lot of agencies and advertisers panicked a little bit and stop spend in the first lockdown, I think the businesses that have really accelerated their growth have been the ones that have continued to spend. And I realize that's quite tough. Not, you know, are a bunch of variables and circumstances that stop people from spending. But that kind of speaks truth to what happened during the financial crisis of 2007, 2008, when the businesses that maintained or even increased their advertising spend were the ones that made significantly rapid gains and inroads to their growth.

Richard Hill
Yeah, the ones that leaned into the opportunity is what we're saying, of this extra growth rather than, which obviously I think it's just being smart with it isn't it, it's what we're saying because, it's alright to say "we'll double your spend", well hang on a minute you know, there's obviously areas of the business when we're talking about eComm store that will be most of them. And it's going to have a great opportunity. But at the same time, they've going to change a few things for certain products are no longer needed or if it's a localized element and, you know, you've got to completely pivot but then lean into that pivot rather than keep doing what you were doing, if that thing is not really proper e-comm sort of thing.

Thomas Vosper
Yes, and and growing sales, it's not always the right thing to do when you can't fulfill the other side. Right. Because of again, maybe there is restrictions because of how you're running your warehouse due to the pandemic. Again, there's a whole bunch of variables that would stop you from wanting to grow your sales. But there was actually a term coined during the financial crisis called the lipstick effect. And that was where what you would expect to happen is that shoppers started to become savvier and started to look for bargains, whereas actually what happened was they gravitated more towards the brands that they knew and they trusted. So they were gravitating more towards the L'Oreal's. And so that's where the coin lipstick effect comes from. And I wonder if in part, probably what's happened over over the last few months is people have gravitated towards Amazon and not because we all inherently love Amazon. I would say we probably inherently dislike Amazon, but we know that it definitely fulfills the orders. And so we pay a premium for that because of the convenience and the reliability.

Richard Hill
I think it's is that we've got you know, so, you know, they've got this thing where it's just so convenient and so reliable. I think, you know, it's my opinion that it's just so damn easy, isn't it? That's the that's the trick is we know it's not the cheapest. It's no longer about that. You know, it's just that convenience, reliability, speed, you know, ten o'clock at eight o'clock in the morning it's here, you know, and I know other firms do that. But then you've got to log in and, you know, get those accounts. So, we'll talk about Amazon more, I think, as we progress through this. So a few takeaways there. But I think what I'm what I'm keen to understand, obviously, these retail trends, you know, and we're going back to this sort of marketplace and sort of aisle 3 and CSS is something I would love to talk to you about. So CSS, you know it would be good to explain to the listeners what a CSS is and why why I think I believe and you believe I'm certain that every retailer should be on a CSS.

Thomas Vosper
And this speaks true to the trends that we've seen from retail. You mentioned Shopify earlier. We know that marketplace advertisers are now looking at starting their own sites. It's never been easier to do that. And so going into new sales channels, Google shopping is absolutely something as an e-commerce business you need to be looking at. Yeah, and just to kind of frame a bit of history around CSS, about three and a half years ago, if you'd have searched for a product on Google, you would have seen the carousel of ads or product listing ads, we call them PLAs across the top of Google. And every single one of those ads was served by contained products that were in Google shopping. The EU Competition Commission upheld a series of complaints from comparison sites saying, actually, that's an unfair monopoly and we're buried somewhere into the listings. We should be on a level playing field. And so that carousel was opened out to other comparison shopping sites. And Google shopping was broken out as a separate comparison shopping site from Google, meaning that every CSS site is on a level playing field with Google shopping, which, quite frankly, is nuts with a business that is eight and a half months old. And yet I'm able to personally, through my business, able to offer all of the functionality and products and services that a trillion dollar business is able to support Google shopping. And so what's really interesting about that is that there there are around about 90, what they call CSS partners. So these are guys that are big enough to support several advertisers across Europe, and they all have a very different mix of business models. Google shopping takes a margin from the bid that an advertiser's charged. Other businesses are either tied to agencies, so have a retainer or some kind of management costs for running the spend so they can pass off discounts onto their clients. Others are technical partners or fee providers that again offer another paid service. Where I believe aisle 3 sit in this is we're a genuine comparison shopping site. And that is our only reason for being, to create that site, which is a destination for consumers and for shoppers. And so where I see that being really helpful is that I work with a whole bunch of advertisers, direct and more importantly, via agencies who can concentrate on the part of the business, which is where they add value. I concentrate on the parts of the business where I add value and collectively one plus one actually ends up equalling three. Yeah. And and so I think that with a variety of business models out there and with Google taking a margin, I would implore every agency and advertiser with me or otherwise to 100 percent be running your ads through a comparison shopping service that isn't Google shopping.

Richard Hill
So I think you need to let that sink in for a minute to listen to the podcast, because at this point, you need to be checking your shopping ads, you need to be going to Google. Well, you will know if you're an advertiser whether you us a CSS partner or not. But ultimately, when someone searches for your product, you see the product immediately, a description, short description, price and whether you've got any other variable setups like reviews and discounts and things like that. But underneath that, it will say by Google or it will say by your CSS partner. So you're not, use it, if it still says by Google, you're paying a premium for that, you're paying a premium, Google say about 20 percent. There is no exact proof of that exact amount, but it's circa 20 percent. There's a lot of different variables going on in any auction so it is very hard to put an exact number on it. But it's definitely a percent Google charging. So by using a CSS partner like Google shopping is a CSS partner, you're getting that discount straight away. So that's something that is very set up in terms of working with a partner, we work with Thomas, so all of our clients, it's something we give all of our clients at eComOne, you know they get access to our CSS partnership, the CSS platform. So it's a freebie in effect out there, that is out there to, you know, to make sure that you're making the most of this. I guess this legal piece that happened three years ago now, you know, to make the playing field level, the playing field in the Google Index for products, you know, which is which has been great. You know, we've seen some huge case studies on that around people switching over. And I think what happens is quite often people are a bit scared. Oo we're going to move from Google to something else, well it's Google we can't move from Google, it's like, and I think what is surprising is how simple it is, how quick, you know, as we know, it can be moved over, if you get it on the right day. It can be moved over in 10 minutes, potentially a half an hour or you know maybe a couple of hours. It's quite surprising, I think, when you tell people for the first time about it it's a bit of a "ey, what, you can do what?".

Thomas Vosper
There's an element of good old fashioned British skepticism, which seems to be too good to be true and that's that's understandable. And I agree it's often very hard to actually see what the the discount, there's almost an expectation that I spent one hundred pounds and I should see a minus 20 pounds somewhere on my invoice and it just it doesn't work like that. But it's what I do know is a fact is that Google shopping does apply a margin and any ads that run through aisle 3, we don't apply margin. And I suppose for full transparency on this, the obvious question that I probably get asked more than anything is what's in this for me?

Richard Hill
Yeah.

Thomas Vosper
And why do I effectively offer something that everyone else is trying to charge a little bit for, through extra ancillary services that I choose to offer free. And maybe this is the old hippy in me that comes out. But ultimately, I think that if I can continue focusing on my mission, that's important for our business, which is building a consumer site for shoppers. And I can offer a value add to all of the people that can help me do that, which is the agencies that can help their clients' businesses grow independent of marketplaces and independent of the big tech businesses, then why would I not be a fan of supporting that and giving them a chance to put some more money back into their business elsewhere at a time when people are being furloughed, losing their jobs or help them put that money back into their marketing spend so that they can grow their business?

Richard Hill
Yeah, yeah. So if you're not using CSS, we can't make it any clearer than that. We think you need to be, that's our opinion, obviously, we're in the space. But we're in the eCommerce space, you know, agency and sort of in a partner of literally between thousands of eCommerce stores. So something that I think everybody should be on, I completely agree Thomas. We've been running CSS probably close to two years for our clients. And there is no downside. And again, we had to take that jump of putting our first client on and then our second client, you think this is too good to be true. And then obviously two years later almost, you know obviously every week we're still putting clients on and you know moving them over from Google to you guys.

Thomas Vosper
So, yes, at the risk of sounding like I might talk about another partner, I'm afraid, Richard, just for for confidence. You know, I have over 20 agencies that I work with across CSS. So, yeah, it's a no brainer. It's the biggest win in performance marketing. You just need to have a conversation with your own agency and start working with one of the ninety CSS partners out there.

Richard Hill
Yeah, yeah, yeah. There's plenty to go on. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So jumping back to Amazon for a minute, you know, obviously their growth is ridiculous, I think. You know the amount of clients we've got that obviously are also using Amazon and eBay, Amazon specifically, and their own website is growing, growing, growing, and obviously as a as a company that uses Amazon. But Amazon as a whole just grow and grow. And what do you see as their threat? What could what could sort of topple them? What threats are there for them, would you say?

Thomas Vosper
Yes well, they certainly seem like a bit of an unstoppable juggernaut right now, particularly judging by my local delivery guy who's upgraded from a hatchback to people carrier and just taken the seats out the back. He was particularly proud of that purchase the other day when I saw him. So there is certainly and we are all fueling that fire of that growth. But I think there's probably a couple of risks. And we talked earlier about Amazon not being the cheapest. Our own research has shown that customers can save thirty three percent on their typical basket value, by just increasing their per view across a couple of additional independent retailers. And I think that also speaks to the fact that consumers these days are also looking for more sustainability and ethical purchases and supporting what's been quite a damaged high street. There's certainly a lot of independents out there that would benefit from our business. And actually, when you take the time to look at their offering and you consider the fact that you probably don't need a same day or next day delivery and actually a free delivery in four days is perfectly fine, then you can save some money and support an independent business.

Richard Hill
Yeah, yeah.

Thomas Vosper
So I think there's a few things around changing consumer habits. I think the other side of that coin is maybe changing habits with the brands and the retailers. Not everyone is in the enviable position that Nike were in when they walked away from Amazon and decided to have B2C business. And but there are definitely with the accessibility of Shopify, a very good case for advertisers to start to expand their view. And I think everyone saw the risk, or certainly a lot of sellers saw the risk when the global pandemic hit us first time round and Amazon stopped fulfilling FBA orders for their merchants and chose to prioritize their first party orders. And so I think that kind of groundswell of seller discontent could cause a problem.

Richard Hill
There's been quite press in the TV. I didn't actually watch it last week. I think my wife was watching it last night on TV, probably on replay or something, or catch up, around the sort of Black Friday deals that when you check them they're not really Black Friday deals and the various discounts that aren't really discounts. I don't know the detail, but it's definitely you know, a thread of discontent out there. And I think that how whole sustainability piece that that sort of using a, you know, independent family-owned, localized, that piece is obviously on a lot more people's minds than ever now. So, that leads me into my next question quite nicely, because obviously they're like a juggernaut, as you said, it's a pretty good analogy. But at the same time, you know, there is opportunity from off the back of that. You obviously you alluded to a few bits that are things that people should be looking at doing to counter that. But what other opportunities do you see off the back if you were sort of going to use Amazon to then build a business from or, you know, is there any sort of bits of advice you can give there?

Thomas Vosper
Yeah, well certainly, so, we talked about Shopify. We talked about how accessible it is now for sellers to start to spin up their own site. And then if they don't have the capacity in-house to run additional channels and advertising channels, there are plenty of agencies that are very experienced in helping sellers make that leap. And I think there's some really useful tools that have become available. I'm really interested to see what happens with what's called Surfaces across Google, which launched in the US in spring, and it rolled out to the UK and the wider Europe around about the middle of October. This is effectively putting free Google shopping listings into into the shopping environment. Yeah, I mean, I would say transparency, not being convinced about that so far, but I think it's certainly something that everyone should be exploring.

Richard Hill
Yeah, we've got an experience with that. Yes. Ticking the box on.

Thomas Vosper
It all comes down to getting closer to the customer. And it's something I feel really passionate about what we're trying to create at aisle 3. We want to try and close, we are trying to provide that marketplace portal and that destination site where customers can come and see all of their options. But we want to do that collaboratively with brands and retailers so that they can get close to their customer and they need to close that gap. And what I mean by closing that gap is if you think about the last thing that you bought on Amazon, I won't embarrass you by asking what it is. But if you think of the last thing, or if anybody thinks about the last thing they bought on Amazon and then think for a minute, did they actually buy it from Amazon or was it sold by a third party seller?

Richard Hill
Three metre power cable x2.

Thomas Vosper
OK. And and who sold that?

Richard Hill
Obviously, I bought it off Amazon. Who it's from I couldn't tell you.

Thomas Vosper
And that's the problem and that's the challenge. That's why you see, sure Nike distance themselves. That's why you see sellers try and set up their own businesses because they've completely lost that connection then. And now you're an Amazon customer. You could have bought that, that cable could have come from a factory in China. It could have come from a high street electronics shop, could have come from anywhere. And you have no idea, you just think it came from Amazon. And so I'm really passionate that when we build Marketplace 3.0, we need to close that gap so that when shoppers are in market and when they're looking for products or they're trying to discover new products, actually you can place the retailer and the brand in front of them at the right time so that it's a good joined up shopping experience and we want them to interact with it because that's what the threat is for Amazon, if it's not price, it's going to be based on the experience that an independent seller can offer and the value that they can offer off their own site. And that's perhaps where, and by the way, that's perhaps where the kind of consumer pressure comes from, and the retailer pressure comes from. The bit that we can't kind of go too much into is that obviously we talked about the EU actioning, taking action against Google, which created CSS, they have, of course, they've opened up an investigation against Amazon and, you know, around their use of sensitive seller information and how all of a sudden they are the, a third of the world's batteries are sold by Amazon or a third of the country's batteries are sold by Amazon, right. Which seems to be a strange coincidence. And, you know, without being too down on it in the midst of a possible global recession and Amazon starting to drop conversations into, around the universal basic income, at the same time, they're reducing their workforce with robots. I wonder how long the EU can tolerate their clever tax schemes when Amazon have the GDP of a small country.

Richard Hill
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think there's a lot of takeaways there that if you're if you're listening to this and you obviously quite, quite typical for us, you know, the majority of our, not majority, but a lot of our clients and I think a lot of people listen to the pod will be heavily, heavily reliant on Amazon. I had a conversation the other day, I've got another conversation with them later today, I think, where they're doing about a quarter of a million a month, I think through Amazon, 100 grand through eBay, but about 20 grand through their own website on a monthly basis. So they've got a great business, but they've got no control of that business. That is the way I see it. You know, they've got no control. I know, even with their website there's things that are out of their control, like Google rankings and AdWords and stuff. But they've got so much more ownership when you've got a volume of sales coming through your own asset, you own that. That's the thing for me. You know that you own that asset. You can control what goes on there. You know, you you're building a business where if you're building a business off the back of something else completely, you know, they put the fees up thirty percent, which is not unknown, or 20 percent or whatever that number is, or a category changes or they decide to muscle it on your category and do their own set of products, which is very well known. You know very well, that happens a lot. You're a bit screwed aren't you. So I think...

Thomas Vosper
Well, 12 years ago, where did you think most of Amazon's traffic came from? It came from search engines. And so they made a very conscious decision not to create a landlord for themselves. And Google then invested in the whole ecosystem that you have today. And, you know, sellers have to be smart about that themselves.

Richard Hill
From my point of view, and I think we're on the same page here, you know, you've got to invest in your own site, your own business, your own, you know, your store. And if that's getting your hands dirty with Shopify, with ads, with SEO, with social and that piece, you know, I think as the podcast owner, you know, an agency owner and ex-store owner, I think, you know, I'm super passionate about that. It's alright you know, these marketplaces are fantastic places to be on. But if you're a hundred percent, that's all you've got. It's a lot less control. But I mean, the marketplaces are fantastic. I'm not saying they're not and they're different places that you need to be listed, but do you see any sort of specific direction of where the marketplaces are going or marketplaces are going at the moment? Anything you see happening that the guys need to be aware of on the marketplace side of things?

Thomas Vosper
No, I think the biggest piece is just what's going to happen when we look at when the EU starts looking at regulation for marketplace control right now, because they're just, I can't stress enough marketplaces need to exist. I'm ultimately building one myself at aisle 3. But marketplaces need to exist in a, as a proper, two sided platform that adds value to shoppers and gives value back to retailers and brands. And at the moment, I just don't see that direction happening right now by and large, there's certainly a number of niche marketplaces, number of niche businesses that are very, very specific, that fulfill a specific criteria in need. But the big tech guys are just continuing to squeeze all of the shoppers. So, you know, kind of comes up to what I think maybe some of the biggest mistakes are when you look at the direction of where marketplaces are going. Probably some of the biggest mistakes are people either are over-reliant on a handful of channels where they could have the rug pulled from under them very, very quickly. Or maybe they are cognizant of the fact that they need to expand their sales channels, but they try and almost do too much. And when I look personally, the mistakes I've made over the last eight and a half months, growing the business and you know, where we need to make mistakes, we need to make lots of mistakes. We need to make it very, very quickly. But we also need to surround ourselves with people that can either help drag us outside of our comfort zone and support us or they can just take care of it. They understand what the end is in mind and they can take care of what needs to be achieved. And so I think probably the biggest mistakes I see is maybe those sellers that have a very big business on something that's a very slick operation like Amazon and then try and step outside of that. They don't always surround themselves with the right sort of support that they need to take that next level of growing their business.

Richard Hill
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fantastic. So I think, we'll, we're going to have to draw things to a close. We've had some great chat there. But what I'm keen to understand is who you think is the ultimate guitar player. Now we're both massive Prince fans. And we we've had a few chats about Prince over the time that we've known each other, so who would you say, Prince? Eric Clapton?

Thomas Vosper
Well, Prince is certainly highly, is very, very underrated as a guitarist. And I think, you know, one of the things you asked me about trends, I think it's fascinating the rise in sales for musical instruments and particularly guitars over the last few months. I mean, certainly we've seen like a rise in, like fitness equipment and yoga mats. But the fact that if out of this pandemic and we have a whole new audience of people learning to play guitar and flex their creative skills, I think that's a very big positive. I think like most things in my choice in books and films, it's varied and depends on the mood. But you can probably pick the classics of the Hendricks's. Probably, Hendrix, Clapton, Prince. I would say that Stevie Ray Vaughan, Frank Zappa. And then if you wanted to come to probably more modern era, it feels like a lifetime away, when about 14 months ago I was there with twenty thousand people at the O2 watching John Mayer play about a 15 minute version of gravity, which was sensational.

Richard Hill
So you're not just giving us one there you're giving us a whole, a whole range.

Thomas Vosper
If we're talking about business, we were already talking about diversifying and making sure that there is a bunch of different things that we're working on at the same time. It's exactly the same with guitars and everything else.

Richard Hill
Love it. So I like to finish every episode, Thomas, with a book recommendation. Any book that you would recommend to our listeners for them to read? It can be anything from a novel to a how-to guide, to guide to mindset, whatever. There is no limit. It doesn't have to be a 'How to Build Your eCommerce Store' book. What's a recent book that you've read or a book you recommend?

Thomas Vosper
I'm sure you plug to your colleague Henry's book on Google shopping. It's a fantastic read. I would say that I've really struggled this year actually for reading. I really enjoyed the commute. I had a nice thirty five minute on the train every single day, so I knew that I could get over an hour reading and I've really struggled to to try and bring that into kind of working from home and the rest of my life. The book I've just finished is, I reread The Four by Scott Galloway, a hugely interesting book about the inner workings of the big tech beasts and who might be challenging those guys. I think for a quick finalist, like, personally, I really enjoy Matthew Syed's Rebel Ideas. I'd recommend that. Factfulness...

Richard Hill
You're doing it, you're doing it again then, I asked for one book.

Thomas Vosper
Yeah and I'm gonna give you a few. And by the way, I recommend all of these. They should all be read. Carol Dweck's 'Mindset'.

Richard Hill
Yeah.

Thomas Vosper
If you're really interested in getting into the weeds of marketplaces, things like 'Platform Revolution', 'The Inevitable' or 'The Death of the Gods' are all, they're quite intense, but very industry specific. If you like the story, then you can't do much wrong. If you look at 'Shoe Dog' or 'Chaos Monkeys'.

Richard Hill
There's a lot of books on there that...

Thomas Vosper
I'll give you your one though...

Richard Hill
We are going in with a one!

Thomas Vosper
I'll give you one that everyone's got to read, I think. And I think it's still stands the test of time 40 years later. And that's 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen Covey. I mean, there are, you know, just as a philosophy in life and business and everything, I think even now it almost all rings true. And for anyone starting a business or looking at growing their business, you know, the four kind of key takeaways to me are about being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, seeking first to understand before being understood, which I get wrong all the time, by the way. And then and then sharpening the saw.

Richard Hill
Yeah, fantastic. Well, there is a whole plethora of book recommendations, but I think you mentioned about five books on there that are on my top as well like Carol Dweck's 'Mindset'. Anybody that starts and works at any of my companies, they get given a Carol Dweck 'Mindset' book, it's one of the first things we give them in their welcome pack is the 'Mindset' book because we're a massive believer in that.

Thomas Vosper
Oh, fantastic.

Richard Hill
So, Thomas it's been a blast. We've been trying to get you on for a while. And we finally managed to so thank you so much for giving up your time today. And for those guys that are listening who want to find out more yourself, more about aisle 3, where's the best place for them to go and get hold and contact you?

Thomas Vosper
Yeah, well, you're welcome to message me directly. You can find me on LinkedIn, Thomas Vosper. You can drop me an email. It's thomas@aisle-3.co and check out our site. We are at our MVP stage. We've launched across a bunch of categories but are focused on footwear and trainers right now. So next time you are looking for a pair of trainers, please visit aisle-3.co, have a look and message me directly. Let me know what you think.

Richard Hill
Lovely well thanks, Thomas. It's been a blast. I look forward to catching up with you again. We'll probably have, I think we'll get you back on in six months and we'll have an update on the journey. Fantastic.

Thomas Vosper
Maybe we can do that one over. Maybe we can do that one over beer if we're lucky.

I hope so. I'll see you soon. Thank you.

Book a Free Consultation

Let us find out more about what you're trying to achieve with your store and let's go from there.

Get Started Today