At the dealer group’s recent conference, Advantia launched its new e-commerce platform. The new platform enables members and suppliers to sell extended ranges of office products and non-office products and it is ready to use now.
Advantia had reviewed e-commerce platforms already available in the office products space but decided that none measured up to their members’ requirements both now and for the future. As a result, last year Advantia bought a 50 per cent share of the digital marketing agency, Comgem. Working with Advantia and some of its members, Comgem has created Advantia’s e-commerce site Merlin Marketplace which is exclusive to Advantia members and the technology is owned by Advantia.
Advantia will be driving customers to its members’ e-commerce stores through SEO, using social media content and creating digital marketing campaigns that will be sent direct to members’ customers via Merlin Marketplace. Using gap analysis and other metrics, members will have their marketing campaigns targeted at specific customers. These campaigns together with all product data will be managed centrally by the team at Advantia head office.
Beck Miller, Advantia’s Operations Director said, “with the launch of Merlin Marketplace, Advantia has recognised that the marketing you require is changing. There is still a need for the core marketing but the real emphasis going forward from 2017 will be on digital marketing. We can guarantee that your marketing will be seen by all the customers of Advantia dealers and we believe no other dealer group can say this. Advantia members can for example, add their own bespoke banners, but these will be in addition to the Group banners, not instead of.”
A selected number of supplier partners were invited to the launch to see how they can feature products on the platform. Advantia’s members were told that Merlin Marketplace can be customised to reflect their individual branding and with over 700 optional settings the site can be configured to suit their individual business needs. To make the transition to Merlin straight-forward, the site would however, be pre-configured for them.
Following a high level demonstration of Merlin Marketplace the conference continued with members choosing to either take part in workshops from Newell Brands and Kays Medical or attend a Technical Merlin Marketplace workshop.
Advantia presented detailed information and predictions in light of the forthcoming launch of Amazon Business in the UK and the steps, including the launch of Merlin Marketplace, that Advantia is taking to positively help their members counter this threat that will undoubtedly be looking to take market share from dealers.
The keynote speaker at the event was Harry Wallop, former Retail Editor of The Daily Telegraph, presenter of three of the most watched Channel 4’s Dispatches programmes and a weekly slot on The Gadget Show. Harry gave a look at how technology, convenience and frixionless shopping is influencing the buying habits of consumers in the UK, and how this is likely to develop in the future.
The conference ended with a themed evening where the delegates entered the misty and magical world of Merlin. Entertainment was provided by Merlin the wizard himself and a quiz on i-pads with the winning team receiving £1,000 in shopping vouchers. Winning Advantia members included, Mark Collin of Smart Business Supplies, William Brown and Barry Marshall of Asdon Group, Kevin Rhead of Hussey Knights, Paul Butterfield of Probyns Stationery & Office Products and suppliers Andrew Rana of Bisilque, Richard Monk of Fellowes and Tim Ingham of Woodstock Leabank.