BI tool increases marketers

Trying to escape a nightmare of mail-outs and fax campaigns, electronic marketer Ernex Inc. turned on the business intelligence light.

The Toronto-based company was starting to hit the wall with the reporting tools it used, according to Malcolm Fowler, vice-president of marketing for Ernex.

“We searched for tools and we found Cognos. The abilities to use their tools on a desktop and to distribute information via the Web were key,” Fowler said.

Ernex implemented Cognos’ Web portal solutions and Power Play, a browser navigational tool, last year.

Fowler said all of their reports to clients are now done over the Web.

“The whole issue of even thinking about going out and printing all of these reports ourselves is a nightmare, and organizing weekly mail outs and fax outs is almost unthinkable now. It just wasn’t very sustainable,” he said.

He added the reports are now run at night off Power Play and then published to the Web through the portal tool.

Fowler noted his clients, ranging from retailer Eddie Bauer to The Royal Bank of Canada, like some of the more interesting comparative tools.

“Retailers can now go on our site and compare data to one another and work out better strategies for their business and marketing,” he said.

Ernex runs electronic marketing programs for retailers, which include point of sale coupons, points offers, loyalty rewards and sweepstakes.

“Something gets sent to us and we have to respond immediately,” Fowler said. “The way we work our campaigns have to print with the customers’ bill, a coupon, a product suggestion, whatever it may be.”

In the future, he hopes Cognos will look into e-mail-enabled cell phones, so that companies can send out thank-yous or promotional offers.

Fowler noted the implementation was very easy for Ernex, with no hardware upgrades needed.

Gord Watts, product marketing director at Cognos in Ottawa, said this product can be implemented out-of-the-box or can be customized.

He noted the complete Cognos BI solution is made up of many components, and stated that most companies do not implement the entire solution.

“Power Play is a tool which people use through a browser and people can navigate through it using hyperlink clicks on a graphic interface,” Watts said. “They can navigate through a highly graphical view of how the business is doing.”

He added that many companies are focusing on BI solutions because of their need to gain and share information both internally and externally.

“Business intelligence is defined by Cognos as software that allows you to extract information from data and turn it into insight and understanding and knowledge on the part of the people in the business so they can take actions and improve the overall operation of the business,” Watts said.

He said if you think of a manager at a distribution company, such as some Ernex clients, he or she does not understand the business by reading through rows and columns of information.

“Business intelligence will take all of that data and turn it into meaningful and insightful information,” Watts stated.

Fowler noted some of his customers are “blown away” by the functionality of Power Play and the Cognos solution he has implemented.

“Power Play is a tool that allows them to say, ‘I wonder what the gender vs. age mix of the top 10 per cent of my customers is?’ Often, that kind of specified querying is new to them,” he said. “We’ve used this tool to target down to the right consumers for offers.”

Fowler continued that in some cases Ernex has moved customer response to their marketing tools from two to three per cent to 15 or 20 per cent.

“I think Cognos makes the most effective use of technology to deliver information. They make their tools usable by not just the data analysts, but the vice-president of marketing.”