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Successful implementation of the project Product Finder 2.0 with the crossbase API server

Waldachtal, 26/10/2016: Established in 1948 as a local workshop-based business, the fischer group has grown to become an international medium-sized company. The family-run business has always remained true to its roots: its headquarters are still located in Waldachtal-Tumlingen in the northern Black Forest, around 60 kilometres southwest of Stuttgart.

 

The company is characterized by its ability to innovate, which has resulted not only in a constant stream of new products but also in new lines of business. Today, the company's divisions are fischer Befestigungssysteme (mounting systems), fischer automotive systems, fischertechnik and fischer Consulting.

 

The Product Finder 2.0 project

The product walls found in most DIY and building supplies stores are primarily designed with the customer's selection process in mind. The wall plugs are grouped clearly into different types of items, first by application and then using a colour-coding system: green for all construction materials, yellow for solid materials and masonry, blue for boards and cavities, grey for concrete and white for special applications.

This concept has now been enhanced with a system that makes product selection even easier. A special application, accessible on an in-store terminal, helps the user to find the right mounting solution quickly with a guided selection process. In a pilot store, once the product has been found its location on the shelf can even be indicated with the help of a light signal. The required data is made available via the crossbase API server.

The crossbase API server

Using the API server, third-party applications can obtain read or write access to the data in the crossbase database, for example product data, media files, texts, translations and terminology. Unlike direct SQL queries, these interfaces ensure that access with any current database version is always functional and returns up-to-date information. The interface can be used by experienced software developers to write applications with relatively little time and effort that read data from the PIM database. The services can be queried with REST.

How it works

Interview with the project manager at fischer

Mr. Müller, can you briefly describe the Product Finder 2.0 project?
The aim of the project was to make it even easier for customers to find the fischer products they need in the self-service areas of DIY and building supplies stores. We designed an application that supports the selection process using guided questions, allowing the customer to find the right product quickly, for example a suitable mounting for a wall cupboard. But given the large number of products on display on fischer product walls, we wanted to go one step further...

...by thinking of DIY enthusiasts faced with a large product display but with no idea where to find the product?
Exactly. Thanks to the application they now know which product to look for, but that means they have to start searching again.

What was the solution?
For the customer, the solution is extremely simple. The exact position of the item on the shelf is indicated by an LED light. We worked with findbox, a company that offers standardized solutions of this type, so the technical or infrastructural solution was soon at hand and we were able to start testing right away.

In the background, a system like that needs to be supplied with data...
Yes, with a project like this, the question of obtaining the necessary data and making it available is at least as important as the presentation of the data. It soon became clear that crossbase as the PIM database with all the marketing-relevant product information was our central data source for this.

Why did you decide to use the crossbase API server for this project?
We’ve been using crossbase for 15 years. The solution is strategically embedded at fischer, being used to produce the print and electronic catalogs, among other things. Our internal and external media services also run on crossbase. For us it was important to establish a sustainable and standardized solution that was also technologically cutting-edge. So it was only logical to use the API server, which provides REST as the interface technology.

Who was responsible for the implementation of the front end?
For the implementation of the front end, fischer used an agency in the Netherlands. The relevant data is made available through middleware created by fischer, which retrieves the data from crossbase.

How did the collaboration between fischer, the agency and crossbase work?
Because we sat down around a table with both service providers early on, for example to define the infrastructure and define the necessary data transfer objects, everything went very smoothly. This was especially true because as the project progressed, all definitions and change requests were closely coordinated and set down in the central documentation. At both workshops, there were technicians and project managers from all participants around the table. By the end, all the deadlines were met and the implementation completed on budget.

Were there any pitfalls?
Even with detailed planning and a closely coordinated concept, at some point you have to make the project work in practice. Not everything can be planned down to the last detail. But here too, crossbase proved to be very flexible when it came to making changes to the concept at short notice. At the start of the project and during the test phase, the main focus was on the correct functioning of the services. Performance issues that occurred in certain situations during testing with real data were quickly optimized by crossbase.

Do you have any tips to share given your experience with the project?
Early planning is always important, as is getting all the service providers involved together round the same table at an early stage.

Are there further plans for the use of the API server?
Yes, the API server is a universal solution that offers lots of new possibilities. In addition, it’s obviously an investment we want to use on a wide basis and therefore further expand. I see a whole host of other possible applications at fischer. At the moment we have concrete plans for an interface to nexMart, for example.

Mr. Müller, thanks for speaking to us and we wish you ongoing success with the upcoming projects!

Interview by Katrin Schenker, Marketing Manager at crossbase

Jochen Muffler (project manager, crossbase), Nico Müller (project manager for e-commerce, fischer)

Overview of the extensive in-store product range

Finding the optimum product quickly using the touch-operated app

The applied application modules

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Information about the customer

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Jochen Muffler
Head of Consulting and Support, Authorised Signatory
+49 (0)7031 / 714 – 721
j.muffler@crossbase.de

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