Monday interview: Ambergreen chief executive Tino Nombro

Ambergreen co-founder Tino Nombro says companies need to know their customers to stand out on the web, but they must not forget about bricks and mortar. Picture: Stewart Attwood
Ambergreen co-founder Tino Nombro says companies need to know their customers to stand out on the web, but they must not forget about bricks and mortar. Picture: Stewart Attwood
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Web marketing veteran says focus on ‘hyper-local’ will help firms put their customers first.

Having been involved with web companies since before Google was founded, Tino Nombro has witnessed at first hand how the internet has transformed consumers’ interactions with business.

One of our reasons for joining up with DAC was their expertise in the ‘hyper-local’ market

Tino Nombro

But the chief executive and co-founder of digital marketing agency Ambergreen, which was acquired last year by North American group DAC in a multi-million-pound deal, believes the biggest upheaval is yet to come – and it all boils down to putting the customer first.

READ MORE: Edinburgh digital agency Ambergreen bought by DAC Group

“We all remember the dotcom boom and bust, signified by that share price drop for, and people were thinking this internet thing was a passing fad,” says Nombro, who founded the Edinburgh firm in 2001 with product and development director Grant Whiteside.

“But when we set up Ambergreen we knew there was something there, and one thing that was making a big change was search.”

Nombro, who studied marketing at the University of Strathclyde after initially pursuing a career in graphic design, talks of an internet “big four” – Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google – that now have immense control over the online world. But in the initial days of internet marketing, the pioneers were – like the early trailblazers in the computer gaming arena – mainly self-taught hobbyists, tinkering away alone in their bedrooms before setting up their own businesses.

“As data began to appear in digital, we were able to see the interest in people searching for products or services, and companies realised this was an exciting new channel that gave them an opportunity to take market share from their competitors.”

Although the internet now seems to have spun its web over all aspects of daily life, Nombro says those firms that only focus on clicks are at risk of being left behind, pointing to Apple’s sleek stores as an important part of the tech giant’s sales mix, while Amazon is also making a move into bricks and mortar grocery shops.

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He also says a high street presence is an important driver of web traffic, as consumers’ online searches are often prompted by what they see in the real world.

“One of our reasons for joining up with DAC was their expertise in the ‘hyper-local’ market. If you do a search on a mobile phone, it normally works out where you are and gives you what it thinks are the most relevant results. That can include directions and a photograph, but for companies that have more than 20 or 30 different locations, they still don’t really have a way of managing that. So with DAC we have a way to help manage their local presence.”

This “hyper-local” focus is one of the big trends emerging in the e-commerce world, and Nombro says it is vital to know as much as possible about customers to get the best results for clients, “but if you want to put the customer first, what really matters is getting the right data”.

He adds: “We’ve started building pictures of customer types to see how they use the various channels to find websites or brands, and we’ve been doing some clever things with data to get that view.”

Ambergreen has clients including upmarket chocolatier Hotel Chocolat, accounting giant PwC and luxury tourism brands Ultimate Travel Company and Turquoise, but it also works with charities such as Musselburgh-based Teapot Trust, which uses art therapy to help children coping with chronic illness.

As the web marketing sector consolidates and bigger agencies flex their muscles, Nombro says the deal with DAC has given Ambergreen the scale to take on the big boys, while maintaining its independent status. The firm has 20 staff in Edinburgh, with the wider DAC group employing about 400 people, and is planning to increase its headcount over the coming year after focusing on integrating its systems with those of its new owner.

Nombro is also keen to use the internet, and the global presence offered by DAC, to help Scotland’s budding entrepreneurs make their mark on the world stage.

He says: “If you go back 20 or 30 years, it was all about trying to bring big business to Scotland, such as Motorola or Chunghwa Picture Tubes, but that was based around massive financial incentives, and as soon as they go the business goes. We should be investing to support our own businesses that can export our exciting technology. In the short term that will be hard but in the long term it will work.”

30-second CV

Born: Edinburgh, 1974

Education: Beeslack High School, Penicuik; University of Strathclyde

First job: I started a design and print business soon after leaving university, but I had to make money and worked at Celtic’s ticket office

Can’t live without: My daughter Amaya and partner Susanna

Kindle or book? I’m rubbish at both, as I can take in information faster by asking questions

Favourite city: My mother is from Denmark and I love Copenhagen

Preferred mode of transport: Snowboarding or wakeboarding

What car do you drive? BMW 320d estate

What makes you angry? I’m more of a happy person than an angry one

What inspires you? Hearing single-minded people tell their stories

Best thing about your job: The people

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