The joy of data
FusionPlus Data is expertly using data to help everybody in the dealer channel win more business and beat away the threats posed by the likes of Amazon Business. Steve Bilton, the company’s managing director, tells Austin Clark more about the business and its mission to deliver top-class data solutions
What’s the history of FusionPlus Data?
“FusionPlus Data (FPD) started out as an internal department within our Evolution Software webstore business, headed up by renowned industry data expert, David Brown, previously of Atomic.
“When he joined us in 2011, Dave’s remit was to create a new product database structure that would enable us to provide a much-improved set of high quality, cross-referenced and attributed catalogue content to our dealer customers that would help them ‘sell more stuff’ to their online B2B customers.
“Jump ahead a couple of years, and having successfully bench-tested the new structure within 240 ‘live’ Evolution webstores, the decision was made to separate that department out of the Evolution Software business and, as a result, FusionPlus Data was born.
“Over the last few years we’ve delivered a highly functional cloud-based Portal for our partners to view/edit/export their ‘Fusionised’ content, been contracted by all of the mainstream software houses serving over 1300 OP dealers and hundreds of thousands of B2B customers throughout the UK and Ireland, and built an extremely experienced ‘rock star’ data team that continues to grow as more supplier partners join the fold.
“The FusionPlus multi-level attribute structure was adopted by the BOSS Federation as an Industry standard in 2013 – we are an active member of the BOSS Synergy committee.”
Why is good quality product data so important?
“It’s vital, for a whole host of reasons. For online consumers, if they can’t find what they’re looking for on a dealer’s webstore within two or three ‘clicks’, and/or have enough information about the product to make a confident purchase, they’ll simply try somewhere else. On that note, and with Amazon Business now live in the UK, the dealers simply MUST HAVE a wider range of products and categories available on their webstores to sell to their customers.
“This is therefore a great opportunity for vendors to ‘provide more stuff’ to the dealers to enable them to ‘sell more stuff’ to their customers – but…accurate, high quality, cross-referenced, enriched, attributed product content needs to reside in the dealers’ back-office and e-commerce webstores before this can happen effectively.”
What types of enriched content do you look after?
“Basically, everything that’s needed in a dealer’s ERP and e-commerce systems – the standard ‘transactional data’ – i.e. code, description, pack, price, etc. – is table-stakes. We then ensure that those products and catalogues are accurately cross-referenced to prevent duplication in the dealers’ systems – remember, some products appear in multiple catalogues, and dealers nowadays tend to turn on many catalogues in their systems – i.e. wholesalers, dealer group, specialist furniture, IT, etc.
“We then enrich those basic product records with additional content that’s needed to make the product jump off the page in e-commerce webstores – i.e. multiple hi-res imagery, marketing descriptions, sales bullets, videos and documents where available, and of course, the FusionPlus multi-level attributes that enable search filtering and accurate product comparisons.
“The icing on the cake is the addition of appropriate associated products to enable on-line up-selling to the consumer while they’re in ‘ordering mode’ on the webstore – e.g. paper for the printer, envelopes for the paper, bags for the shredder, other coloured toners, staples, batteries, etc.”
What do you do and what don’t you do?
“In layman’s terms, the very clever design of the FPD database enables us to deliver a hybrid combination of the selling catalogue owners’ content, topped up with rich content from the manufacturer, to the software houses and on to the dealers.
“It’s imperative that we respect the unique content such as code, price, description built by the selling catalogue owner, but equally important that we then enrich each record with the additional marketing info such as images, video, bullets and sales bullets provided by the product manufacturer, that the selling catalogue owner may not be able to support/deliver.
“We get asked, on occasion, if we can guarantee ‘first in search’ on dealers’ webstores? While great content certainly helps products to be found on webstores, ‘first in search’ is actually a software feature/option and tends to be controlled by the dealers themselves on their instance of their webstore. So, in truth, we ‘enable’ it by way of supporting core attributes such as ‘brand’, ‘type’ etc., but we certainly don’t control it. That responsibility is squarely with the dealer.”
Which software houses do you work with?
“Our sister company, Evolution Software, was obviously our first partner, and gave us the two-year live testbed of over 200 dealers we needed to ensure all was well.
“The first mainstream software house partner was Prima Software, followed by Heart and then CommercExchange. These early partnerships not only proved that the data would work within other systems, but they each gave us valuable feedback to help us improve the service…and I cannot thank them enough.
“Next up was Oasis, at the back end of 2016 and then, in March this year, ECi joined the fold and should be live with the FPD content in the summer.
“We held our first FPD Software House Partner meeting in February, bringing together the six leading industry software houses to kick around data issues, in the same room. And there was no fighting – it was the stuff of legend, and, the first of many.”
How are you helping dealers to expand their businesses?
“It’s pretty simple, really – working in conjunction with our catalogue, manufacturer and software house partners we, collectively, are providing the dealer community with rich content for a wider range of products to help them better serve their current and future customers. Oh, and, ‘sell more stuff’.”
What FUSION PLUS DATA means to….
Catalogue owners – Fusion helps to introduce your catalogue and product ranges to over 1300 dealers
Manufacturers – Fusion ensures that your brands are represented in the best light in all supported catalogues, whilst improving visibility of your full range
Software houses – FPD provides a SINGLE source of accurately cross-referenced, industry standard attributed rich catalogue content for your back-office and/or e-commerce solutions
Dealers – working with the guys listed above, we all work together to help you to ‘sell more stuff’ to your current and future customers to increases order values and help combat the threat of Amazon Business
The views of customers…
“From day one, we have had an excellent and open working relationship with Steve and the FusionPlus team. The high quality content has made a significant difference to our business and made it easier for our customers to sell more office furniture.” Chris Scott, Dams
“Our customers are now getting good quality, consistent, real time product data in their back office and e-commerce systems from many more suppliers.” Emily Murphy, Heart Systems
“FusionPlus Data is a great company to work with and are tireless in their efforts to keep adding to its data repository. The company has an extremely proactive approach when onboarding new wholesalers and manufacturers partners and welcome input from partners like Prima, especially when our customers suggest catalogues that they would like to see ‘fusionised’.” Ian Buckley, Prima Software
“Fusion is a great company to work with and fits perfectly into the space of providing all levels of our industry with an effective data management solution. As a wholesaler/distributor we can easily link in to brand holders data and make available for all resellers who run our catalogue. Working with Fusion allows us to broaden our product offering to resellers who in turn can seamlessly offer the product on their webstore.” David Dunne, A M Dunne & Son
"Working with FusionPlus Data has helped us get our catalogue data and product images to our dealers, open many new accounts and win additional business.” Mark Greene, Trade Supply
Posted by Austin Clark (95)
Written on 30th June 2017
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