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World's Largest College Savings Plan Powers Cross-Sell Programs with Genalytics Analytic Software

  • October 01 2004, 1:00am EDT
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REVIEWER: Sha Hsing Min, director of database marketing and analytics for Upromise.

BACKGROUND: Upromise is the country's largest privately funded service helping families save for college. Upromise also operates customer-loyalty programs for other companies. Membership is free and allows families to automatically save money for college while making everyday purchases at more than 18,000 grocery and drug stores, 15,000 gas stations, 9,000 restaurants and 10,000 hotel locations nationwide, as well as tens of thousands of retail stores and 200 online shopping sites. Upromise's contributing companies include America Online, Citi, Coca-Cola, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Kellogg Company, Kimberly-Clark, McDonald's, The Sharper Image and hundreds of others. Upromise also makes it easy for families to start their own college savings strategy through tax-advantaged 529 college savings plans, or by using Upromise contributions to help pay off their student loans.

PLATFORMS: Windows 2000, multiple dual-processor PCs; Solaris, 4-way Sun.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Consumer packaged goods and retail financial services firms look to rewards network programs as a cost effective way to retain loyal customers, acquire new ones and execute efficient CRM programs. Upromise chose Genalytics advanced analytics software to help its partners get more out of their new customer sign-up, cross-sell and retention programs. With Genalytics, accurate targeting of offers and other marketing messages reduces costs and minimizes communications fatigue. Targeting can also direct the least costly offer to each prospect that is likely to yield the desired response; high-valued offers are sent only to those who need such a costly offer. Offers redeemed by prospects who do not follow-up with long-term behavior change or who don't respond profitably undercut ROI. Targeting helps Upromise direct offers to the subset of prospects that maximize ROI. Because the Upromise coalition includes hundreds of brands and types of products and services, targeting requires a low-cost method of mass-producing predictive models. Genalytics offered a tool that allows low-cost, rapid modeling, without sacrificing the ability to develop more sophisticated and powerful models when appropriate.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Genalytics technology produces predictive models that often are 10% better than models created with traditional approaches. Analysts are able to spend more time with partners to understand their business challenges and less time preparing data or fitting models. The Genalytics software automates many of the time-consuming data preparation steps and ultimately speeds the implementation process. Genalytics helps the Upromise team find subtle yet powerful relationships in their membership data, which includes Web site clickstreams, detailed demographics and psychometrics, and purchase logs across a wide spectrum of industries. The exceedingly data-rich environment benefits from automated tools such as Genalytics as a supplement to human-guided data mining and research. More accurate models means the cost of new customer acquisition is 10 to 20% lower than with ordinary direct marketing techniques, and the number of e-mails per member needed to achieve Upromise requirements was cut 35% in one year. By training junior analysts to use Genalytics, Upromise minimizes analytic costs by channeling only the most critical modeling efforts to highly trained specialists.

STRENGTHS: Genalytics' business analytics software allows analysts without strong statistical skills to help meet modeling requirements. It also helps to produce accurate models.

WEAKNESSES: The main weaknesses of Genalytics' business analytics software are the input and output interfaces, as they are still maturing.

SELECTION CRITERIA: SAS Enterprise Miner did not offer the kind of hands-free mass-production capability that we needed. Offshore contracting was not cost-effective compared to Genalytics. Scalability was also important. Additionally, Genalytics produced equal or superior models compared to in-house specialists.

DELIVERABLES: Genalytics produces model equations (SAS and XML output), lift charts and scores.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Genalytics provided exceptional vendor support, both pre- and post-installation. Vendor support included effective group and one-on-one training, rapid response technical support and expert advice on implementation and integration issues. Genalytics also provided a responsive and effective account team.

DOCUMENTATION: We didn't need the documentation much because of the availability of personal support. The user guide is adequate and clear.

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