BACKGROUND: As the exclusive Sears Portrait Studios operator, CPI Corporation is the market leader in preschool portrait photography. The St. Louis-based consumer services company operates 1,000 Sears Portrait Studios in the U.S. and Canada, most of them in major Sears stores. Direct mail promotions and data warehousing are critical to maintaining life-long relationships with CPI's loyal customers, as well as bringing CPI's substantial investment in the latest digital imaging technology to the marketplace.

PLATFORMS: The i.d.Centric Data Quality Suite from Firstlogic, Inc. runs on UNIX with Sun Solaris 2.6 on a Sun 6500 with eight 400 MHz CPUs.

PROBLEM SOLVED: When 1,000 retail studios enter customer transaction data that is not standardized or cleansed into the central data warehouse, duplicate and undeliverable promotional mailings become a costly waste of printing and postage in addition to an annoyance to customers. The data warehouse may contain multiple entries for the same household, resulting in confusing household profiles. Customer-entered data at CPI's Web site also contains typos and incomplete addresses. Manual checking of Web-entered data is inefficient and time-consuming. The i.d.Centric Data Quality Suite solved problems in all three areas: direct mail, Web-entered data and data warehousing. The software allows CPI to save substantially on outsourcing costs and greatly improve the timeliness and quality of the customer data warehouse. The i.d.Centric Data Quality Suite parses and standardizes customer data before records are matched. Consolidating multiple customer records into a single household lowers mailing costs and reduces customer annoyance from getting multiple mailings, often addressed differently. The i.d.Centric householding process allows CPI to accurately track customer transaction histories by household, determine who are CPI's best customers, gather marketing demographic information and analyze customer response to direct mail promotions.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Customer transaction systems connected to cash registers at each studio are stored in each studio's database and then transferred to CPI's centralized databases. Flat files are then created, cleansed and matched. Web site customer data is similarly cleansed of spelling errors and missing address information. In the householding process, the software is used to extract data based on an alphabetical list of states, not by region. These customer files are then reprocessed through the i.d.Centric software to ensure its accuracy. The software questions any possible errors and suggests corrections. It also corrects wrong ZIP codes and dropped letters in street names, verifies street numbers by range and automatically standardizes the address to meet U.S. Postal Service requirements. The customer records are matched against existing household records from the same set of states. The marketing department processes records through three separate sets of business rules. The first set compares the customer last name and address. Nonmatching records are then checked for matches based on address and phone number. Matching records are used to update the household table (usually the most current data is the most accurate). Any records that do not match existing household records are deduped to determine which record will create the new household.

STRENGTHS: The software is fast, offers multiple options and performs many different functions. It delivers substantial cost savings and quickens turnaround time for data extraction requests which allows CPI to respond more quickly to the needs of the marketing department.

WEAKNESSES: Since the matching software offers so many options, it takes a while to learn.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The i.d.Centric Data Quality Suite was selected because of Firstlogic's reputation, the software's performance on UNIX and the technical knowledge and assistance from the sales team.

DELIVERABLES: The i.d.Centric Data Quality Suite cleanses, standardizes and consolidates multiple sources of customer data into one household view used throughout the corporation. The software helps create a more accurate, complete profile of each customer and offers more control over the data warehousing process. No customer data enters the central data warehouse before it's cleansed and standardized.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Firstlogic's technical support is excellent.
Its customer care department is very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.

DOCUMENTATION: Overall the documentation is very useful. The only concern was that it didn't spell out how blank fields would be handled.

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