Today, more than one million drugstore. com customers enjoy the privacy and convenience of online shopping. drugstore.com is the leading e-commerce store for health, beauty and wellness products. Based in Bellevue, Washington, our company offers thousands of brand-name products, rich information resources, personalization features and a licensed pharmacy.

drugstore.com's prescription for healthy business is quality products and excellent service ­ fronted by the best possible Internet shopping experience. A high-performance, highly available Internet infrastructure makes that Web experience a positive one.

High availability is as important to e-commerce as breathing is to humans. Our online store stays highly available to customers, giving us a competitive advantage for e-commerce.

That advantage paid off during our store's first holiday season, Christmas 1999. At that time, a Forrester Research survey rated drugstore.com the best health, beauty and wellness site based upon the fast, responsive service shoppers experienced. December order volumes exceeded all previous months combined.

To leverage the one terabyte of data that resulted from increasing sales, Compaq and Oracle built a data warehouse filled with business intelligence for targeted marketing programs to keep shoppers coming back. And they do: in 1999, our first year in operation, revenues exceeded $34 million.

Fully Integrated from Web to Warehouse

While brick-and-mortar competitors struggle to integrate legacy back-end systems with e-commerce servers, drugstore.com was fully integrated from the start. Compaq servers in the corporate data center and distribution sites mesh operations from online ordering to fulfillment. Over 20 Oracle databases support the business.

At the front end, a redundant array of high-volume, load-balanced Web servers keep response high as customers browse, order or consult with beauty experts and pharmacists. Purchasing and customer data flows into clustered database servers. If a failure occurs on one system, the workloads quickly and automatically failover to another system. To further protect information, drugstore.com replicates the data and stores snapshots of the information in the data warehouse.

drugstore.com proactively scales the environment to handle escalating transaction volumes and a product showcase that changes by as much as 1,000 SKUs quarterly. We've already scaled by a factor of 10 since we launched the store. We add servers to the front end, and disk space and processors to the back end without affecting business; it's transparent to customers.

Data Warehouse a Cornerstone for CRM

Customer and ordering information flow daily from production servers to the data warehouse. This information contains both operational and clickstream data which reflects each customer's activity at the site, such as which pages they visited or which graphics they clicked on.

By joining this information with operational data, such as purchasing information, drugstore.com determines which products to offer and the most effective way to present information to shoppers. A typical query may scan more than 100 million rows of data.

In addition to data mining to analyze customer behavior, drugstore.com uses this business intelligence for personalization, customer relationship management and cross-selling. For example, based on previous buying behavior, customers revisiting the site are greeted with recommendations for other products. Further, drugstore.com creates targeted marketing programs based on buying preferences to reach loyal customers.

While other companies build data warehouses that address only small segments of the business, drugstore.com's solution serves nearly 100 users throughout the company. "We're on the cutting edge in data warehousing," says Scott Green, senior director of merchandising and marketing systems. "In a very short time frame, we've built a data warehouse that serves the needs of the entire business. We literally went from a concept stage to a fully functional data warehouse in less than six months ­ and with more than a terabyte of data."

Green says the data warehouse design also differentiates drugstore.com in the e-commerce market. Built on star schema methodology, which reflects the best practice techniques for data warehousing, users quickly locate and retrieve records.

Implemented six months ago, we expect an immeasurable impact on business. With our data warehouse, there's nothing about our business we won't know.

What Makes it Work

Services:
Compaq Computer Corporation Web-enabled the business from the ground up within one week.

Hardware:

  • Compaq ProLiant Web, database and order processing servers
  • Compaq AlphaServer back-end database and merchandising system, data warehouse server
  • Compaq StorageWorks RAID array systems
Software:
  • Compaq Tru64 UNIX operating system
  • Compaq Insight Manager
  • Microsoft Windows NT operating system
  • Microsoft Cluster Server
  • Microsoft Internet Information Server 4.0
  • Microsoft Site Server, Commerce Edition
  • F5 BIG/IP load balancing system
  • Oracle8.5 production database
  • Oracle8i data warehouse database
  • Oracle Fail Safe server
  • Business Objects
  • Sagent

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