This interview delves into a somewhat obscure aspect of e-commerce: margin optimization through non-core product recommendations. Quite an interesting subject in its own right.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with some context about yourself as well as the company.
Bob Dufour: My background is in a couple of different disciplines—statistics and analytics, direct marketing, and psychology. That’s my background and that’s how I put these all together in a company like Fusion, which was started in 2007. Our go-to market strategy is in digital optimization. What do I mean by that? We were formed in 2007 and had our launch with our first client in November of 2007. What we did at that point was we were this intermediary company that sat in between companies that had products to sell through a digital media and distributors that had customers interacting through a digital media. We sat in the middle and did real-time recommendations and real-time optimization. That was how we got started.
Our initial customer group was from the tourism industry, mostly airlines and online travel agencies. Our initial product group was on the insurance side. Our role was to sit in-between those two and take information on a real-time basis from customers going through a distributor’s website and try to understand the knowledge that we have of that customer and link it to potential products and recommend the best offers. That’s how we got started in 2007.
In 2012, we were spun off. We were incubated within Allianz, which is a large German insurance company. I think it’s number 31 on the Global 500 list. Even today, we still have the same mission where we sit in-between distribution and products. We have broadened our distributor scope from tourism into entertainment and media, healthcare, property, and casualty insurance. We’ve expanded our scope of products from just insurance to things like tours. We’ve broadened the product scope from, say, travel insurance to multiple lines of different insurance like vision and dental. We stuck to doing the same kind of thing—taking information on a real time basis, recommending those products, and then continuing to grow those. That’s a quick background on the company now.
We’ve got about 40 plus clients in over 40 countries with about 19 different languages and probably about the same number of currencies. We’re a global company. We’re headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. The primary employee base is in Richmond but we also have an offshore site in India.