Ed Scutt, MD of LiveBuzz Manual & Marketplace tells how a spark of an idea has led to a career developing a platform to provide exhibitors with a simplified retail experience.

I find it difficult to think back to the days before Amazon: the convenience of being able to get most things I need - however random they may be - at the click of a few buttons in an easy, single transaction, conveniently without even leaving my seat. Likewise, scrambling around trying to find takeout menus you happened to have had stowed away (either from somewhere you had eaten before or thanks to the gallant efforts of the local restaurant staff posting them through your letter box is a distant memory, pushed aside by Deliveroo and Just Eat.

And do you recall wandering around every estate agent in town looking for your new property? As fun as this half-hearted window shopping can be on occasion, we simply head to Rightmove. I could go on listing further examples.

What these companies did was so simple in hindsight (or "simples" as another of our meerkat pioneers would say): they helped define and cater to 'modern' consumers' shopping expectations by bringing together suppliers in one place, conveniently online.

I am of course talking about the rise of online Marketplaces. Marketplaces have disrupted and now dominate many industries. Why has ours not caught on yet? Or has it...?

In 2010, as a fresh-faced software engineering graduate out on the road selling CRM, E-commerce and Content Management Systems, I was sent off to what was at the time one of the largest UK-based exhibition contractors, which was on the lookout for a CRM system.

I spent many months spec'ing out their business and this was the largest and most complex solution I had worked on yet. I built a good rapport with the MD, as he could tell I genuinely cared about getting their requirements right - critically understanding both them and their customers. As we had a farewell chat in a rainy Welsh car park and I joked about upselling him the e-commerce and CMS solutions, he paused his second back-to-back cigarette and, deadly seriously, told me "Online exhibitor manuals, mate. That's where it's at."

This ignited a spark in my brain that began what is now a 13-year career in our industry. And to this day that man is still the smartest person I know in it.

I went away and relayed this spark to a good friend of mine and we brought together those two 'upsell items' (Content Management Systems + E-commerce) and built these concepts into a single product.

With a bit of industry-specific tweaking, we were then able simply to package this as an Online Exhibitor Manual. We were subsequently acquired by that company. This was two giant leaps forward for them (an exhibition contractor): to be able to provide their customers (exhibitors) convenience and simplicity, with an online manual; and e-commerce. Up until then, they and other contractors were providing order forms inside printed exhibitor manuals, ready to be faxed back(!).

At the time, I had naively assumed we could plug other contractors' products into the e-commerce, but both my lack of knowledge of the intricacies of delivering to exhibitions - and politics - stood in the way.

Some 11 years (and a lot of industry knowledge) later we were acquired by a technology company. Intricacies are now less daunting, and the politics of being owned by a single contractor are removed. We have taken the second leap with our online exhibitor manual and e-commerce platform and opened it up to facilitate working with as many contractors as possible. A marketplace for exhibitors to purchase (almost) everything they need at the click of a few buttons in an easy, single transaction, conveniently without even leaving their seats.

It's been a long journey, and over a decade of development to build a platform that can appropriately cater for contractors' requirements, but the rate at which many forward-thinking organisers are taking up our marketplace goes to show that exhibitions are now providing their consumers with what they expect, just as Amazon, Deliveroo, Just Eat, Rightmove and our meerkat friend do. I wonder what the next decade will bring.