Bsamply: Andrea Fiume’s B2B fashion platform

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This post is also available in: Italiano

One of the most innovative business models in the fashion industry, Bsamply provides textile suppliers and companies with a platform to fully manage the sales process: “Connecting and empowering your business” is a perfect payoff, the effective synthesis of the characteristics of a service that intends to create a large-scale network, facilitating business relations, and also aims to improve the efficiency of traditional processes. All that, thanks to digital technologies.

To understand the inception, evolution and future prospects of Bsamply, we met Andrea Fiume, chairman of the Californian startup, who recently launched the Bsamply Tradeshow Project, the first virtual textile trade fair, created in collaboration with Protocube Reply.

(FLT) – Let’s start with the most obvious question: how did you get the idea of ​​Bsamply?

(AF) – This project originates from my personal experience. I come from a family that owns a textile company and some brands, so I was born in this kind of environment. In the first fifteen years of my professional activity, I worked for various companies (not belonging to my family) and there, I gained some solid experience in the processes that govern the B2B dynamics of the fashion industry.

Thanks to digital technologies, we can greatly improve business relationships and the efficiency of these processes, making them accessible 24/7. After noticing this opportunity, we challenged ourselves and in 2017 we founded a startup. We moved to the United States because there are more opportunities here in terms of fundraising. In Italy, it would certainly have been much harder for us to start off with the project we had in mind.

(FLT) – Bsamply’s business model is as simple in its dynamics as it is complex in the variety of elements that compose it. Was the initial plan effective right away?

(AF) – Unfortunately (or fortunately) not. We started by charging a commission on transactions but this method didn’t work out in many respects. First of all, it didn’t make any sense to charge old customers commissions, especially because the transactions could anyway take place independently from our service.

So, we needed a tool that did not discriminate against anyone, which was not based on random elements. For this reason, we restructured our service as a pure SaaS business model, where companies pay according to the service they use instead of the sales they make. This was exactly what they needed.

For us at Bsamply, it was quite a sharp turn-about which had to happen regardless, considering that our offer is something unique in its kind. There were no similar experiences we could draw inspiration from, so we had no choice but to try it out ourselves. The results obtained so far confirm that we have been on the right track.

(FLT) – In what respects can digital technologies promote sales dynamics so rooted in tradition?

(AF) – They can make all sales-related processes simpler, faster and more accessible. Practically, the platform makes use of something similar to an e-commerce solution – with the convenience of consulting product catalogues –, adding on all the essential tools to carry out all related tasks.

Thanks to an entirely digital platform, we can provide suppliers with a public showroom, where they can display their products, and a private one, containing the entire catalogue, accessible only with specific privileges. Their retailers can have access to all the details in real-time, to better follow up with customers, with fast and accurate orders.

At the same time, buyers can catalogue products, order prototypes, manage appointments and perform many other tasks. All this with a single tool, easy and practical for everyone to use. The conventional supply chain which we are based on is very similar but much slower, more cumbersome throughout the various steps and much more expensive.

Faced with such clear, tangible advantages, even the most conservative brand is somehow forced to at least consider the path of digital transformation.

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Bsamply offers access to a large database of fabrics and accessories for the textile industry. (credit: Bsamply)
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The desktop experience is integrated with mobile applications that allow users to perform a wide range of operations, any time, anywhere (credit: Bsamply)

(FLT) – In Bsamply’s journey, the Tradeshow Project marks a turning point in the way the product is presented.

(AF) – Definitely, especially because it finally achieves the virtualisation of the entire trade show experience, offering much greater potential than the experience a customer can have in the showroom of an individual supplier. Even if the experience is entirely virtual, the Tradeshow makes Bsamply’s offer real and tangible thanks to the sales platform. It lets you see and interact with each product in 3D, with the constant support of sales representatives.

Bsamply makes it possible to achieve online that human relationship between customer and seller that is essential in this type of activity. Thanks to the virtual trade show, customers are not limited to interacting with a single supplier. Since the platform gathers many of them in the same place, clients can take a tour among all their stands, in the same way they would do in a physical trade fair. Digital technologies and, particularly, 3D make this process very immediate and engaging.

(FLT) – What are the main reasons that pushed you to choose Protocube Reply’s Virtual Interactive Showroom?

(AF) – Its immediacy. I found it almost by chance and I was immediately struck by its engaging features. It was very fun to move around 3D environments as if I were in a video game. I must be honest, I thought that this tool could serve our business only at a later time.

These technologies are fundamental to make interactions more natural and realistic, encouraging users to do online what they are traditionally used to doing physically, whilst discovering the enormous advantages that this technology entails.

(FLT) – How many suppliers can get a virtual stand in the Tradeshow?

(AF) – We set the limit to 60 companies, for several practical reasons.  First of all, because it is a pilot project, therefore a completely new experience to manage. Furthermore, the onboarding process of new suppliers requires quite some time and during the Covid-19 lockdown we could not expand the internal team and we had to work remotely, making the training of new staff more troublesome.

We intend to enhance the Tradeshow service we offer. This will happen progressively according to demand and other factors, with the aim of providing a quality of service in line with our standards. The enthusiasm this project has given rise to pushes us to keep up the hard work, also thanks to the feedback we receive from users every day.

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Based on Protocube Reply’s Virtual Interactive Showroom, the Bsamply Tradeshow Project was created in 2020 as a virtual textile fair with 60 exhibitors. (credit: Reply)

(FLT) – What is the one feature that more than others convinced fashion brands to place their trust in Bsamply?

(AF) – Surely the fact that we know this market and its stakeholders very well as well as the brands they work for. Through the years we have built a network of connections in the sector and we have invested directly in what we offer. This was a solid base which convinced even very big companies – giants with over 100 years of experience – to join Bsamply.

In addition to direct contacts, I reckon that companies trust us, above all, because we are totally down-to-earth in our proposal: we don’t make illusory or misleading promises that, especially in this particular time, no one would be able to keep. Digitising sales processes is not something you can improvise. It is a constant commitment that requires time and well-calibrated expectations.

(FLT) – So, there is no magic formula or secret technique… Is that what you mean?

(AF) – Exactly. On the contrary, we are not afraid to share our knowledge. Bsamply stands out for its profound know-how of the dynamics that govern the B2B sales processes of the fashion industry.

The tool we have developed is undoubtedly important and valid; it is constantly growing, thanks to significant investments. But our work will be successful and generate profits only if we continue to understand the needs of all the parties involved. We are an unconventional startup, with all the pros and cons that this involves.

(FLT) – What were the main challenges you had to face?

(AF) – The fact of starting with a new idea to be developed from scratch and position it in a market with very strict rules and dynamics. We just couldn’t launch a business model that would yield results in the short term, as is the case with most startups. Before we came out, we had to make the product mature enough not to risk losing credibility with our customers.

Any serious entrepreneur knows what I mean. There is an inherent responsibility in continuously reassuring investors and in leading the growth and development of the project. It is normal to go through some particularly stressful moments along the way. But it was essential to keep working this way. There was much more at stake than a single business project. It was about the credibility of an entire life spent in this field, building important relationships with the people who support it every day.

(FLT) – In various business areas, 3D is playing a fundamental role in product presentation. As for the world of fashion, where are we at?

(AF) – 3D offers a fundamental contribution to different levels of the experience. In some respects, such as the involvement of the public and the static view of material libraries, I believe that we can consider ourselves very satisfied with the possibilities that technology offers us today.

While 3D is certainly a reliable tool for the visual component and renderings, there are other aspects in which digital technologies are not yet ready to replace the traditional experience. I am thinking in particular to some perceptual factors related to the physical simulation of the behaviour of the fabric itself. For example, understanding how the fabric fits the body once manufactured.

Generally speaking, when faced with an evolving technology, one has two possible approaches – and this is true also for the fashion industry. On the one hand, some start using it right away, well aware of the compromises that this entails. On the other hand, others prefer to monitor the developments and decide to fully adopt a technology only when it is deemed ready from all points of view.

(FLT) – What is Bsamply’s stance?

(AF) – Personally, I am more inclined to wait for a technology to be reliable, or at least ready enough so you don’t have to make significant compromises in satisfying your needs. However, waiting doesn’t mean standing still. It means monitoring and testing all the technologies that appear on the market, carefully evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, and being the first to implement them at the right time.

Research involves a great deal of effort, investing a lot in a project that unfortunately does not generate any immediate returns. But I don’t see any alternatives. We are talking about quality standards for an industry that produces garments that are sold for thousands of Euro. We cannot just make do, not having total control of the situation. We must be extremely scrupulous in evaluating the physical behaviour of the fabrics.

(FLT) – Digital transformation of fashion industry processes is an open dialogue between innovation and tradition, and it takes a good dose of courage to change a whole set of established practices.

(AF) – Technology will continue to evolve and will give a practical answer to all needs. I reckon that digitising the fashion industry is harder than digitising other fields, for two main reasons. The first is the widespread rejection of what is new and involves a significant change in habits, almost as if we were to remap a DNA shaped throughout generations. I believe there is an even more important factor to consider. The nature of textile products is strongly linked to manufacturing and craftsmanship.

Although the advantages offered by digital solutions are so evident to force all players to choose this road, there are aspects related to the physicality of raw materials and sartorial manufacture that, in my opinion, will require a hybrid approach for a longer time.

The Bsamply platform is a good example. It allows you to order a 50 × 50 cm sample of the fabrics from the retailers’ catalogues, so the customer can feel, touch and evaluate them and before proceeding with the final purchase.

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Based on a realistic preview of the product, the summary does not allow for direct purchase of fabrics but lets you order a sample to evaluate its physicality (credit: Bsamply)

(FLT) – What does Bsamply have in store for the future?

(AF) – We will continue to work hard to improve the services offered in the platform so that it can meet the needs of the suppliers and buyers who join our network. We will always be watching out for technological innovations appearing on the market, trying to implement them in experiences such as the Tradeshow Project, which are fundamental to deliver that level of product presentation that today’s market can no longer do without.

For further information:

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Andrea Fiume, founder and CEO of Bsamply (credit: Bsamply)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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Francesco La Trofa

Francesco La Trofa

Architect and journalist with 20 years’ experience in 3D technologies.
Consultant to public entities and 3D businesses for aspects relating to design and communications.
Head of editorial content at Treddi.com and co-founder of Digital Drawing Days, the only event of its kind in Italy.
Actively involved in research and teaching at Milan Polytechnic.
Edits 3D STORIES for Protocube Reply.