Overstock Data Issue Is All About the SKUs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — Clearance retailer Overstock.com Inc. was in a pickle.

With different business lines — Web sites for shopping; books, music and movies; auctions; and travel — yielding a SKU count of 1.2 million and an annual growth rate of 100 percent, the company found its internal reporting system couldn't meet user demands for up-to-date, accurate data.

So the Salt Lake City-based retailer built a data warehouse that let it better communicate with and manage customers and suppliers. Overstock turned to Sunopsis' extraction, transformation and loading technology to handle that task.

“They have multiple applications, all of them having part of the information needed by executives to make decisions,” John Rauscher, chief operating officer at Sunopsis, said yesterday, taking time from booth duty at the 2005 Annual Teradata Partners User Group Conference and Expo. “We're gathering all the information in a common business format and in a single place where they can query from their workstation.”

Overstock looked at other database technology options that would have required it to buy a dedicated engine to handle the changes. This would have raised costs and scalability concerns. Besides, a proprietary engine would have forced the movement of data several times.

Sunopsis, which maintains offices in Burlington, MA, and Limonest near the French city of Lyon, won for its user-friendly architecture. It takes the information from Overstock's Teradata warehouse and places that content into proper data warehouse structures in real time.

For instance, when Overstock records a purchase, the data need to be formatted and populated in six to eight records. Previously, Overstock hand-wrote the code to get the information into each of the needed formats and files.

Now this transformation and movement of data are done automatically via Sunopsis. More than 300 users in Overstock's marketing, sales and financial departments can generate real-time data when they need such metrics hourly, daily or weekly. In effect, Sunopsis' architecture lets Overstock transform 25 million daily processes into useful data.

Getting the right data into many hands within an organization at the right time is an issue for most marketers and retailers that generate gobs of information daily.

“It's common for every customer,” Rauscher said, “and it's more important when you acquire other companies because you have to deal with different IT systems and applications.”

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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