REVIEWER: Colin Harper, managing director of Storecheck Marketing Ltd, UK.

Storecheck is a retail-marketing firm that helps manufacturers who sell their products through retail stores cut the colossal amount of waste normally associated with in-store advertising and promotion. Storecheck researchers gather compliance data on in-store promotions and combine that with national Electronic Point of Sales (EPOS) data of retail sales. By analyzing and drawing insight out of the relationship between these two sets of data, manufacturing and retail companies can see which stores are in compliance with in-store promotions and store managers can see what the likely rise in sales would be if they were to comply. Storecheck's services range from shopper and store analysis to delivering a guaranteed positive return on investment from tightly controlled field and direct marketing activity.PLATFORMS: Desktop Development: Windows XP. Server: Windows 2003 running MySQL. Data Source: EPOS data, Storecheck analyst research data entered via handhelds or through a custom-built IVR system.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Until recently, IT staff at Storecheck laboriously created Microsoft Excel pivot tables for analysis and reporting purposes. It worked for a while, but after five years of business growth, we needed something new and better. We had clients calling up saying "I need a current report in an hour," and we couldn't do it because a report would take approximately three hours to produce. We identified a need for an analysis and reporting application that was powerful, that would generate reports dynamically without any work on our part, and that had a look and feel our customers would be comfortable with. More than anything, it had to let us deliver our product up to date and over the Web.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Up-to-date EPOS data is automatically drawn from a variety of sources and in a range of formats into Databeacon. Additionally, Storecheck field researchers gather compliance data on ongoing promotions at stores across the country and input their data daily via a simple Web interface. Databeacon explorable reports are dynamically generated in near-real time and are available to our clients whenever they want them and wherever they may happen to be.

STRENGTHS: Most software disappoints you a little bit, but Databeacon has given us what we wanted and needed, plus some functionality that we didn't expect. Databeacon does exactly what it promises to do. Marketing managers and retail analysts from major retail and manufacturing companies who use the system say the Databeacon interface is intuitive and comfortably familiar to spreadsheet users, but offers subtle enticements to dig a little deeper into the data and learn a little more. Implementation time was lightning-fast. The product is very flexible and well-documented. Since it was set up, it has worked perfectly without the need for maintenance.

We would like to be able to show 3-D graphs with time as the additional axis - of course, this is not available through pivot tables either.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We needed a Web-based system that was fast, easy to deploy and could seamlessly integrate with our own research data as well as national EPOS data from a variety of sources. Additionally, the system had to be simple to use and have a low relative cost.

DELIVERABLES: Near real-time, Web-based, explorable reports are dynamically generated and available to marketing managers and retail analyst from major retail and manufacturing companies when and where they want them. The reports automatically draw EPOS data from a variety of sources and in a range of formats. Storecheck researchers input their data daily via a simple Web interface.

The support we have received from Databeacon's U.K. partner Matraxis has been excellent, both in pre-sales and after we implemented the system. Their flexibility and product knowledge have made implementation smooth and painless.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is well-written and well-organized. Though the product is very simple for the end user and requires no training, the documentation for administrators and developers has been very helpful in ensuring we get the most from the system.

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