GPMD’s Year in Review: Our CEO Reflects Upon 2020

It’s been a tumultuous 2020 for all of us. Between all the personal and work challenges we have faced, the light at the end of the tunnel seemed for many of us, an impossible goal to reach.

At GPMD, certainly this was no doubt very true. It's fair to say that building a company like GPMD has been slow and steady, with a few bumps along the way, but 2020 surprisingly, despite the added challenges, saw us gain traction in a few key areas which we didn't expect.

Building the company with new talent for key initiatives 

On the hiring front, we grew our team across development, marketing, project management and design.

Above: New hires at GPMD in 2020

A wealth of experience and talent that has only added to our already talented existing team. Each and every one of these individuals has contributed to raising our skillset to a new level. Hiring Lena, our new Marketing Director, has been a huge step forward. Marketing is an area I have never before focused on as heavily as the other areas of growth at GPMD, so bringing in Lena and having this new role within GPMD, signals a new era for us. For the first time in GPMD’s history, under the leadership of Lena, we now have a marketing strategy and specifically a pretty exciting one for 2021!

Clear objectives

Our yearly turnover grew by 26%, enabling us to make the investment in the team. 

We’ve also begun a complete overhaul of our operating processes to provide a strong foundation for the delivery of our work. I’ll be writing more about the changes we’re making in the coming year, but for now, here are some insights into our aims for 2021:

It's a project that I’ve been trying to work on for a number of years, but it’s only been possible this year with the additions we’ve made to the team in 2020.

Our client portfolio going into 2021

An agency is nothing without its clients and this year we were sad to say goodbye to two much loved clients: Soho House (who’ve been with us for 7 years) and Atelier Swaroski, who decided to merge the sub brand into the main Swarovski website. This is the nature of agency work, but we are lucky enough to have a typical engagement of over 5 years and clients like Proviz who will be celebrating their six year partnership with us in 2021. Another personal milestone of 2020, was that we helped grow client revenues to over £50m.

The past year also brought in new business for us and we were very pleased to start working with some amazing brands in 2020, including:

Several of our new clients in 2020: Rodial | The River Cafe | British Standard Cupboards| Paxton & Whitfield | Lazy Susan

One of these projects was our first venture into Shopify for The River Cafe, further establishing our platform agnostic approach to ecommerce.

Four PWA projects and launching our first product

Additionally, we also started work on four projects utilising a Progressive Web App (PWA) frontend, this has been a huge challenge for our team, but they have taken this on with the enthusiasm and grit with which they approach all new technologies. We’ll be launching these projects in the first half of the year and will have plenty of insights to share once launched. In fact, back in May we interviewed our developers on their experience with their first PWA project and plan to do so again once all four projects have gone live. 

We have also been working hard on a new product that we’re really excited about launching in 2021. It’s been 4 years in the making and the source of many long hours, particularly from our tech whizz Sam and his Go development team Sammy & Sandra. It's a big deal for us and I can’t wait to see it launched.

Impact of the Global Pandemic

I couldn’t finish a review of 2020 without talking a little about the pandemic: after a short downturn in our business, we bounced back quickly once it became clear the online sales were accelerated by the pandemic. We have finished the year strongly and are investing heavily in our business. 

Across our clients we saw growth in online sales for the Food & Drink, Health & Beauty, Homewares, and Sports Clothing verticals. Overall, online sales achieved over 10 years growth within the span of just a few months: in November 2019 online sales were 21.6% of total retail sales, by November 2020 it was 36%.

Source: Internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales (ratio) (%) from ONS

Working from home is now the norm and going to the office a rare occasion for many. We currently don’t have an office and all meetings are now virtual. The number of people returning to the daily commute is likely to remain depressed for at least a few years. A 70% decrease in London office space take up appears to show at least a temporary drop in demand for office space in the capital.

Source: The Office Market Report Q3 2020 by Knight Frank

2020 was certainly a year that will go down in history and it brought with it unexpected challenges for everyone across the globe. Nonetheless, the ecommerce industry was able to recover and we saw new developments for the retail industry as a whole. Across the board we saw traditional offline brands move online for the first time, working from home became the norm, and even trade fairs had to find a way to connect brands and services online. It’s been interesting to see how we’ve all coped and I for one, am excited to see what 2021 holds (and looking forward to sharing it with all of you). 

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