When it comes to e-commerce, IMARK distributor members are all over the map. Some are highly active and engaged while others are just getting started. 

Regardless of where your company is on the journey, the Industry Data Exchange Association (IDEA) can help you move forward with new technology that will rev your e-commerce engine while lowering costs, increasing profits and improving customer satisfaction.

IDEA’s Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) application provides distributors access to timely product and pricing information from manufacturers in one central location that they can use to populate their internal and external systems—ERPs, catalogs, web stores and mobile apps.

More than 6,500 distributor locations use IDW, which was proven to help distributors generate more than $73,000 in profit for every $10 million in sales. IDW has had a good 20-year run, but now it’s time for an upgrade.

IDEA is in the process of launching two new products, which are designed to help your company better manage your company’s data and rev up your e-commerce engine—the IDEA Connector and IDEA Fusion.

What is the IDEA Connector?

Kevin Corcoran, vice president of sales and marketing at IDEA, called IDEA Connector a “product information management system on steroids.” Like IDW, the master data management (MDM) platform enables distributors to securely access accurate and timely product and pricing data directly from manufacturers.

Unlike IDW, IDEA Connector is beefed up with data syndication, analytics capabilities and has artificial intelligence on its roadmap.

“We have the capability of providing that data in multiple formats, depending on how distributors would like that data,” Bill Ferguson, vice president of product and services said. “For example, we can send it to a global synchronization network or provide API to API/machine to machine connections. There are more platforms and access mechanisms for distributors and manufacturers to provide data.”

IDEA Connector is unlike comparable software-as-a-service offerings as it:

  • Provides access to manufacturerprovided marketing content such as product descriptions, spec sheets, technical drawings, attributes, images and videos.

  • Categorizes content for maximum transparency regarding the product data source.

  • Enables distributors to receive supplierspecific net pricing files.

  • Scrubs and validates data against wholesale industry e-business standards and rules to ensure quality and consistency.

  • Allows for customized data extraction settings and price sheet options for specific suppliers.

IDEA Connector works with IDEA’s Data Quality Program to provide complete, accurate, up-to-date information in line with the industry’s highest expectations. The new data quality program will also provide tailored data quality scores on the data that is most important to your company. It will allow distributors to choose the products and attributes they wish to measure in the platform. You will also be able to communicate those measurements directly with your trading partner.


“When IDEA Connector goes live, distributors will start off with all of the capabilities they had with the IDW grandfathered over in addition to having a much more expanded quality assurance program,” Ferguson said. “Where today you get generalized quality assurance scoring for the industry, you will get quality assurance scoring per manufacturer.”

Distributors will also be able to simplify their access to IDEA Connector product information with IDEA Fusion.

What is IDEA Fusion?

IDEA Fusion is a distributor-specific hosted SQL database updated daily that allows companies to:

  • Extend product information, authorizations and pricing within your enterprise.

  • Create actionable activities based on data changes. Users will have the ability to see what has changed by attribute, by manufacturer and by date.

  • Centralize product information for a holistic view of your product offering.

  • Quickly populate your e-commerce and websites, marketing materials, analytics and Excel spreadsheets.

  • Integrate with other sources for a single centralized data resource.

  • Review daily pricing updates from manufacturers.

  • Analyze pricing and product information using your business intelligence tools.

“Distributors will receive a set of data that they are authorized for and that’s operated by them,” Ferguson said. “They can write a report on that data, compare that data to the data in their ERP systems and send it to their e-commerce platforms.” 

Ferguson called IDEA Fusion “a single source of truth” as distributors can also use it for product data outside of the electrical industry. The SQL database provides a master source of data that can be shared internally or with trading partners.

“With IDEA Fusion you can put all of your data into a single platform that feeds your e-commerce engine,” Ferguson said.

IDEA Connector is expected to go live on Jan. 31, 2020 and IDEA Fusion is available today. “From an IMARK perspective, these tools level the playing field for distributors of all sizes in the market. Timely and correct data becomes a competitive advantage,” Corcoran said, adding that IDEA Connector can be used alone or in combination with IDEA Fusion.

“Some distributors have e-commerce platforms and some are starting their investigation, others have static websites with others still publishing print  catalogs. Business models are different with some creating marketing flyers and some sending salesmen out into the field with iPads to generate sales sheets for particular customers,” Corcoran said. “By using IDEA Connector, especially with the IDEA Fusion extension to tie into all systems, they will be sharing data consistent across all platforms. If they need to change pricing, they can make the change in IDEA Fusion, which would pass the information on to their spreadsheets and sales sheets. This approach minimizes the number of people they need to support their platforms and keeps data consistent across all platforms.”

“These are exciting times for the industry,” Corcoran said. “The new IDEA Connector positions our customers for the next 20 years with current technology, communications capabilities and significant flexibility in terms of configurations to fit your business.”

For more information, visit idea4industry.com.

Jennifer KohlheppManaging Editor