Visualsoft are one of the biggest eCommerce players in the UK, with £1.20 out of every £100 spent online through their platform. The specialists process more than £1bn transactions a year and employ over 350 people across offices in Stockton, Newcastle, Manchester and Dubai.
Helping a brand think bigger
Mark sits down with Visualsoft CEO, Dean Benson, to talk all things brand, eCommerce and shaping the future.
24th September 2021
24th September 2021
Estimated Reading Time 7 Minutes
And fewer people in the North East have done more for the digital landscape than Visualsoft CEO, Dean Benson. Since their inception in 1998, he's overseen the company's growth and spearheaded a movement that's seen the region move to the forefront of the UK's tech industry.
He spoke to Mark about Visualsoft's growth, their recent brand refresh and giving young people in our region an equal chance.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what keeps you busy day to day?
I’m Dean, my main role is CEO at Visualsoft. I'm also involved in Northern Stable, a business which helps small but growing high potential software and tech businesses start up and reach new levels — successes so far include Salesfire and Hive HR.
I have quite a number of different business interests and involvements as well as helping out with our next generation in tech. I'm on the board of Governors at Teesside University and an active board member at the Entrepreneurs Forum.
It’s fair to say I keep busy!
For anyone who doesn’t know, can you tell us a little about Visualsoft?
In its simplest of terms, we help retailers sell more online. We do this by using our own eCommerce cloud platform and our marketing teams to work in a partnership style, with our clients giving them the tools and knowledge needed to increase sales.
We have over 350 staff, across four different offices with a combined active service of over 1000 years.
What's Visualsoft’s WHY and what are you famous for?
This is really simple. I love tech, I love business and I love helping people. Visualsoft combines all three of these passions into one business. That’s my personal purpose which brings the DNA into the company and gives us a really clear direction and vision.
We are already one of the biggest platform players in the eCommerce space and we continue to grow month on month.
What makes you different and how do you stand out?
Competition in any business is really healthy, as long as we’re all wanting to help retailers sell more online. It takes a long time and a huge investment to develop a world class eCommerce platform, and ours now processes over £1bn a year in clients revenue.
At our last count, 1.2% of all UK eCommerce transactions go through a website built by Visualsoft.
This makes us all really proud and shows us that we have so much more to aim at too.
The business recently invested in developing its brand...why now, what does ‘brand’ mean to Visualsoft and how has it evolved?
Honestly, when we first started out in business it was a name, a logo and a few colours. We were heavy on tech and virtually no awareness of the importance of brand. But that was 21 years ago.
In that time, our brand has become part of our core, culture and messaging, so it's naturally raised its importance to us all.
After working with you and the team, our brand has evolved. We used the process as an opportunity to educate ourselves and understand the role of our brand, what it means, what messaging it sends out and truly what we stand for.
The brief to Better was simple: we wanted to ensure that we had a brand which was future proof. John and the rest of the team acted as the impartial voice who challenged our thinking throughout the Discover and Creative phases.
We know your team and your customers are at the heart of your business, how do they feel about the Visualsoft brand?
Through working with Better, we were rightly encouraged to involve and engage with our teams across the business to help inform and influence how our brand should evolve. It was also really important to reach out to our clients, suppliers and partners who helped challenge and validate our perception of the business and our brand.
The brand no longer reflected the business we had become. We have a great deal of heritage and pride within the business and we wanted this to be represented within the brand. We also wanted the new brand to become a platform that will support our future growth and represent the company we have become.
'Think Bigger' became the new strapline for the brand, how does this represent the business and you as a leader?
We really thought long and hard as a team and organisation about the strapline ‘Think Bigger’. We love it as it’s used in the right context in our branding, marketing and office space.
It embodies the clear vision we have as a company, plus the 'Think Bigger' ambitions we have for our clients, partners and employees.
We know there’s been some big changes and lots of exciting news recently, what does the future hold for Visualsoft?
We are going through a business transformation at Visualsoft, from a historically service based company to a large eCommerce platform business.
As we grow we are constantly revisiting every aspect of the business and checking it’s aligned to our brand, our vision and our goals. The future holds a huge amount of growth within our sector. It’s so exciting.
Socially, there’s also our work with organisations like High Tide; I’m really keen to continue those partnership. Ultimately, it’s about the future, and anything involving the upcoming generation is absolutely ethically the right thing for businesses like ours to do. We’ve got such a great set of companies in the Tees Valley, it’s really important for school leavers to see the opportunities that exist within our brilliant area.
And, what about you...what does the future hold for Dean?
This is a great question as my life revolves around tech, business and people. I don’t separate myself from inside or outside of the business so everything that I do personally and professionally has to align to my beliefs and values.
I’m currently looking into the issues surrounding the next generation of techies and specifically digital poverty. Poverty is a word I personally do not like using, so I’m already starting to talk about tech equals and digital equality.
It’s making sure young people in our area don’t miss out because they can’t access a computer at home.
Thanks to generous donations, we’ve already managed to raise £100,000. Watch this space.
What is the best thing about your job?
The people. I’m so fortunate to be surrounded daily by an amazing group of people, friends and family. Every day is a fun day, rewarding and with the right people on a superb journey.
What are you most proud of and why?
I’m proud of the journey so far with the amazing people including past, present and future! We’re going places at Visualsoft and it’s an exciting ride. Think Bigger!
You can read more of Mark's chats with business leaders from across our region, discussing their organisations, the importance of brand and more. Features include Ian Kinnery, SPURR's Jonathan Lamb and Active's Karl Pemberton.
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