SAS Ships Customer-Intelligence App - InformationWeek
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11:16 AM

SAS Ships Customer-Intelligence App

Marketing Automation 4 has a semantic layer of technology that translates complex data concepts for nontechnical business users.

SAS Institute Inc. is shipping SAS Marketing Automation 4 software, the first of a series of customer-intelligence applications the company is developing to run on the recently released SAS 9 business-intelligence platform. SAS disclosed the availability of the application Monday at its annual user conference in Montreal, attended by about 3,000 customers.

"Marketing, perhaps more than any other area, can use some heavy-duty analysis," CEO Jim Goodnight said in introducing the updated application. The product is expected to intensify SAS's competition in the customer-analytics realm with E.piphany, Siebel Systems, Teradata, and Unica.

The release of Marketing Automation leverages some of SAS 9's new capabilities. The application has a semantic layer of technology that translates complex data concepts for nontechnical business users, says Randy Betancourt, director of SAS's customer-solutions center. That makes it easier for IT to prepare customer data for business users by building data definitions and rules into the customer data-analysis system. Users, for example, don't have to go through the complex process of defining a "household" to analyze information about their customer base.

Analysts without expertise in statistical data mining can use the application to access complex modeling algorithms created using SAS Enterprise Miner data-mining tools.

The application also takes advantage of SAS 9's range of user interfaces that are tailored for users based on their job, such as business analysts, marketing executives, and database administrators. The application also provides IT with new security and privacy controls over who has access to customer data. Pricing of the application, based on the number of customer data records to be analyzed and the scope of the marketing application, can range from $500,000 to several million dollars, Betancourt says.

The application will be most attractive to companies with thousands or millions of customers, especially those in the telecom and financial-services industries, says Forrester Research analyst Eric Schmitt. For example, SAS said that U.S. Bank, a division of U.S. Bancorp, already uses the marketing-automation application to bolster its customer-relationship marketing efforts.

Still, SAS has some marketing to do among its own customers for SAS 9 and the new marketing application. Toys 'R Us Inc. has used SAS analysis software for two years to help make the most effective use of its marketing dollars. Rick Muldowney, guest relationship director, calls SAS 9 "definitely a leap forward," but says the toy retailer likely won't move to SAS 9 until he's sure any bugs have been worked out. Also, the company already uses a marketing-automation application from a competitor and isn't likely to switch without a compelling reason.

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