Democratising retail: Harnessing the power of technology to be local and sell global – Katie McQuaid, Director for Amazon Marketplace

Coconut Merchant

Katie McQuaid is director for Amazon Marketplace in the UK where is she is responsible  for helping business of all sizes, but particularly small and medium sized businesses, sell to Amazon customers around the world. Today half of total unit sales from Amazon come from third-party sellers. Katie joined Amazon in 2014 from Tesco where she was latterly UK Clubcard Director.

Katie-McQuaid---Amazon

Katie McQuaid

“…services such as Fulfilment by Amazon enable small businesses to scale their operations in a way that just wasn’t possible before the growth of the digital economy, whilst also maintaining a healthy work life balance…” 

My career to date

I started my career in strategy consulting at McKinsey, before making the move into retail by joining Tesco. Over the next eight years I led business development for Tesco.com, launched Tesco’s Marketplace and led the transition of the Tesco Clubcard to a more digital scheme. I then joined Amazon as Fulfilment by Amazon director for the UK in October 2014, before being appointed to run the wider Marketplace business in 2017. I was first attracted to the growth and pace of the business, the willingness to innovate and make history and the clear focus on customers. 

My role on a day to day basis

As head of Amazon Marketplace in the UK, my role is all about empowering the tens of thousands of businesses of all sizes who sell on Amazon, helping them grow their business by reaching new customers in the UK and around the world. It involves working with many teams across Amazon, from Operations, Technology, Marketing and Finance, with the primary aim being to continue to improve the services we offer our sellers to help them grow their businesses.

A resource for entrepreneurs who want to sell online

The key benefit of using Amazon Marketplace is that it enables growing businesses to provide a first-rate customer service by utilising Amazon’s world class logistics network, whilst potentially accessing over 300 million active customer accounts worldwide. Last year alone, UK businesses selling on Amazon Marketplace exported goods worth more than £1.8bn, up 29% year on year.

Benefits to retailers of focusing on sourcing and developing products

Amazon-warehouseOne of the biggest challenge facing growing businesses who sell on Amazon Marketplace is how they scale their business without investing huge sums in logistical or warehousing operations. A growing number of small businesses are now using Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) to help them scale at a pace that matches their ambition. With FBA, Amazon stores, picks, packs and delivers items on behalf smaller businesses, enabling them to concentrate on what they do best – finding and developing new products and marketing them to potential customers. 

Amazon has also created a suite of support tools to help businesses export their products, including supporting them by managing currency exchange, local translations and providing global delivery and distribution. As a result, businesses of all sizes can sell globally across Amazon’s eleven websites in seven languages to reach hundreds of millions of customers.

A favourite example for me is Al Shariat, also known as The Coconut Merchant. Al began selling ethically based coconut-based products on Amazon in January 2015, initially reaching 100 sales per day within a few weeks, before growing to become one of the top coconut brands on Amazon within a few months.

Al initially had his own in-house fulfilment team, but before long, they were achieving more sales than they could handle. They then decided to switch to Fulfilment by Amazon, which has enabled them to export to 27 EU markets and sell their products to millions of customers. 

The Internet and technology – great levelers

I believe the Internet and technology are great levelers between big and small businesses. It has democratised the ability to set up your own business, to the point where as long as you have a laptop, Internet connection, and great product or idea, you can sell it anywhere in the world. You can be local and sell global thanks to the internet and technology.

The Internet and services such as Fulfilment by Amazon also enable small businesses to scale their operations in a way that just wasn’t possible before the growth of the digital economy, whilst also maintaining a healthy work life balance. A good example of this is Gayle Hunter, founder of lifestyle products company, Luxelu.

Gayle left her career in business and started selling her products on Amazon through Fulfilment by Amazon primarily to spend more time with her young family. She can now spend much of the school holidays overseas, as she can run her business on Amazon remotely from anywhere in the world, safe in the knowledge that Amazon is taking care of the storage and distribution of her products to customers. 

Getting started

Selling on Amazon Marketplace is easy and small businesses can get started quickly – they upload images and descriptions of their products and set their own pricing. Businesses can manage their own inventory, fulfil orders from customers and provide customer service. Or with Fulfilment by Amazon, growing businesses can have Amazon warehouse, pick, pack, ship and provide customer service when their products are ordered. Either way, their products can be available and visible to our customers locally and globally.

Working part time to allow work / life balance

I joined Amazon on a four days per week working arrangement. Obviously, this was a discussion as part of the recruitment process but Amazon understood from the start that this was important to me. I have had a supportive team around me who have been willing to make it work and understand that at times it means that I am not available or will delegate meetings to others. At no point have I felt that it was holding me back.

Working flexibly drives you to be exceptionally focused on what is most important for the business and how you spend your time. It encourages you to think more creatively about how you delegate to your team. Obviously from my perspective, it allows me to spend more time with my family, take the kids to school and remain more connected with their daily routine.

It’s important to set clear boundaries for yourself and communicate these so that everyone understands what your working arrangement means. Flexibility is also important. You need to think about how to manage the inevitable times when there is a particularly busy period and you need to turn something around quickly with your team.

 

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