• Sooner or later it’s all about data

        • In focus

          FusionPLUS Data

          FusionPLUS Data from Evolution is said to give manufacturers and brand owners much more control over how their products are presented to consumers

          There’s a revolution afoot at e-commerce specialist Evolution Software. The company is well on its way to transforming the UK and Ireland OP industry’s data with its fast-growing content division, FusionPLUS Data.

          The FusionPLUS database offers over 130,000 unique products, covering all majorcategories, and is growing every month as more catalogue and brand owner partners join the fold.

          Every product in every catalogue is brought in line with the FusionPLUS multi-level attribute structure, adopted as the BOSS standard in recent years, to help improve search results, results filtering and product comparisons within e-commerce webstores.

          In addition, rich content such as extended marketing descriptions, sales bullets, standard and freeform attributes, multiple images, supporting documents and videos give the on-line consumer all the information they need to add to basket.

          For the growing number of back-office and webstore solutions using the FusionPLUS data set, hundreds of thousands of dealers’ on-line consumers have a much better chance of finding what they’re looking for more quickly, ideally within two or three ‘clicks’, and have enough information on-page, including appropriate suggested associated and alternative items, to make a confident buying decision, there and then.

          Having good quality data within both back-office and e-commerce solutions also helps dealers improve customer service and increase order values when dealing with customer enquiries, be they online or over the phone.

          Headed up by Managing Director Steve Bilton, FusionPLUS Data is said to give manufacturers and brand owners more control over how their products are presented to consumers, thus maximising sales opportunities.

          Launched as a service to the industry in 2013, having been bench-tested within the 200-strong Evolution webstore user base since 2011, FusionPLUS Data has gone from strength to strength and is now contracted by many of the country’s leading brand owners, catalogue owners, software houses and dealers, including names like Evo Group, Fellowes, Prima, Heart, Commerce Exchange, Integra, Advantia, Dams, Beta Distribution, Antalis, A-Team, Durable, Hamelin and Woodstock Leabank, to name but a few.

          There has been significant investment since then in terms of cloud-based infrastructure, development of the FusionPLUS Portal and building a highly experienced team around the Head of e-Content, renowned data ‘guru’ and architect of the service, David Brown.

          The most recent addition to the rapidly expanding FusionPLUS team is Donna Maddox, who joined in August having spent nine years as a category manager at office2office plc and 10 years prior to that as an executive officer at HMSO. Needless to say, Donna has hit the ground running!

          Steve Bilton says: “The FusionPLUS database is a content ‘hub’ availing dealers and software houses with enriched mainstream catalogue content from a single source and giving catalogue owners access to the full range of the brand owner partners’ products, which is particularly helpful during product selection periods – it’s like the Match.com of the data world!

          “Nobody knows products better than the manufactures themselves, but this high quality information sits in their internal systems and marketing websites and doesn’t tend to get out to the dealers at the coalface.”

          By displaying their full product range within the FusionPLUS database, catalogue owners can quickly drag and drop the newly selected items in all their glory into their catalogue, then merely tweak to make unique to them.

          Their refreshed catalogue then gets out to the dealer community via the software houses, or by directly accessing the FusionPLUS database via secure web service integration. It’s simple but very effective.

          The nature of the database means that each partner has total control of their catalogue in terms of what it contains and who can access it – this is vital when holding many catalogues from many partners, be they wholesalers, dealer groups, manufacturers or dealers, as each will have invested time and money in the build of their unique content and it must be protected.

          “One thing we didn’t envisage, but genuinely welcome, is the scenario where some independent dealers are now looking to use the FusionPLUS database, and tools within the Portal, to build their own unique online catalogues for use within their chosen webstore technologies.”

          One manufacturer who has seen instant benefits is furniture supplier Dams. Managing Director Chris Scott says: “In the past, shopping cart solutions for office furniture have been notoriously difficult to manage because there are so many options for selection and adding new lines as they become available from manufacturers and wholesalers was an onerous task.

          “The work we have done on configuring high quality product data, along with a significant investment in photography, means that end users will be able to select the exact combination of product features they want and see an image of their chosen selection on screen before they click the buy button.”

          Evolution Software, in conjunction with its FusionPLUS Data division, has developed the AMevo webstore to include real time pricing calculations and has even incorporated a discount code and contract customer pricing option per customer, to make online ordering quicker and simpler for both dealers and their customers.

          Any dealer that wishes to add the DAMS catalogue to their back-office and e-commerce webstores can now do so quickly and easily. Conversely, if they currently have no on-line presence or are unhappy with their current solution, that can be solved too!”

          One of the software house partners is Prima Software. Ian Buckley, General Manager says “The partnership between FusionPLUS Data and Prima has ‘drastically increased’ the information available on product records, enabling easier and more accurate searching. Software Houses can access a single source for back office and webstore content, normalised data for a consistent experience and opportunities for mass customisation, as well as bulk and incremental updates through FusionPLUS web services.

          FusionPLUS Data content is included as standard within the Prima software package, and delivers immediate benefits such as attribute filtering by using characteristics such as, but not limited to colour, brand and size to intuitively stipulate the required item in a proficient manner.

          The partnership was announced to all Prima customers as part of the Prima Cloud launch in October 2014. Thousands of new products are added monthly, as more suppliers recognise the importance of having their brands better represented in a more sales-centric manner, particularly on the web. The 1000’s of consumers utilising Prima’s software packages now benefit from improved search filters to refine those initial results and enhanced on-page details per product, greatly increasing the likelihood of larger order values for the dealers and of course their supply partners.

          A Team Distribution has contracted FusionPLUS Data to help it provide its customers with accurate product information. Director Clark Landau says: “We are very excited about this new strategic partnership as it will give our dealer customers, current and future, easy access to our high quality 1,000 product strong toner catalogue, no matter what internal systems they’re using.

          “The FusionPLUS Data integration makes our Procopy product information much more reliable and accurate, includes downloadable documentation, warranty and guarantees along with our own branded Procopy packaging images – this will make it much easier for partners to quickly add our catalogue to their back office systems and/or online webstores.”

          Steve Bilton concludes: “We are signing up new partners at a rate of three to five per month. These include catalogues owners looking to increase their reach, be they established names or new entrants to the market, brand owners looking to influence how their products are represented and to inform the world of their full ranges, software houses looking to take content from one source and improve the functionality of their systems and independent dealers looking to diversify and expand their product offering and even to create their own unique catalogue content.

          “Our ultimate aim is to create a database for the industry as a whole and to date this model appears to be working very well.”



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