BACKGROUND: ELetter is an online direct mail service based in San Jose, California. From any Web browser, businesses upload to ELetter any letter, postcard or booklet they want to mail along with an address list. ELetter takes care of paper selection, printing, folding, envelope stuffing, addressing, postage and mailing. ELetter's digital printing and mailing equipment creates error-free, professional mailings ­ saving customers time and money.

PLATFORM: ELetter runs Firstlogic's i.d.Centric e-data quality suite on Windows NT.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Ninety percent of small businesses prepare their own mailings ­ approximately 30 billion pieces a year. Direct mailing campaigns are plagued with undeliverable mail. Addresses are incorrect or incomplete. Mail that does get delivered is often delivered in duplicate or contains name misspellings. As customers upload their mailing lists to ELetter, Firstlogic's online data quality software automatically checks each address against the U.S. Postal Service's most recent database of 140 million deliverable addresses. The software eliminates duplicate addresses and attaches a ZIP+4 code to each address which speeds delivery and qualifies the mailing for postal discounts. In only a few minutes, the software ensures ELetter customers only pay for mail that gets delivered. Customers never touch paper or go to the post office, whether they're mailing a few dozen postcards or 20,000 booklets. ELetter uses Firstlogic's e-data quality software to correct inaccurate addresses in real time as customers upload them. ELetter customers eliminate manual labor otherwise needed for bulk mailings. Instead of paying 10 people to fold and stuff for hours or days, an ELetter mailing takes only one person fewer than 15 minutes at a Web browser. The service can lower a company's overall mailing costs by up to 50 percent.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: ELetter uses Firstlogic's software as a front- end, real-time, Web-enabled customer database cleansing tool. They market it as a free, value-added service to customers. Their home page advertises, "Address Verification ­ Always Free." In addition to serving as an essential component to its service, ELetter also uses e- data quality suite for competitive differentiation to attract customers and keep their customer retention rate at 80 percent.

STRENGTHS: 1) Quality of addresses produced. Firstlogic software is faster, more accurate and more fully featured than competing software. Some other software brands have "over-eager algorithms." Their software is reluctant to reject bad addresses. Instead, it sends the mail to an incorrect state. In other words, some other software products try to make bad addresses work. Firstlogic software correctly rejects bad addresses. 2) Scalability. Firstlogic software is designed to let lots of users simultaneously verify addresses. It's more of a client/server architecture than some other products. 3) Potential for market expansion. ELetter likes the fact that Firstlogic's software includes international and Canadian databases. As ELetter expands its customer base, it plans to build on its relationship with Firstlogic and use those additional marketing paths. 4) Web-enabled technology. Firstlogic's software is ready to be integrated into Web applications using development environments including ActiveX (COM), Java, C++ and Microsoft SQL Extended Stored Procedures.

WEAKNESSES: The software's address database is currently distributed on CD-ROM. ELetter would prefer to receive automatic updates via the Internet.

SELECTION CRITERIA: ELetter was using an address cleansing software from another vendor. It switched to Firstlogic because of the strengths already listed. In addition, ELetter was impressed with the responsiveness of Firstlogic sales and technical personnel.

DELIVERABLES: The software does real-time, Web-based, front- end address correction and standardizing for all of ELetter's direct mail customers.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We had phenomenal support from Firstlogic. We actually spoke with the engineer who wrote the product. Replacement of ELetter's old cleansing software went seamlessly. So did integration of Firstlogic's software.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was as good as the tech support

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