Lee Valley Tools president Robin Lee proudly admits that the Canadian hardware retailer is "the strangest customer" Datavantage/CommercialWare has. The retailer does not use the CommercialWare (CW) product in the typical manner, and utilizes few of the provided functionalities. "We do what I call dancing around the periphery," Lee says. Rather than use many of the product's functionalities, Lee Valley Tools uses the platform as the foundational core of its thousand-plus in-house applications. "It is fundamentally the most important system we've got."
The CW database serves as a touch point for virtually all of Lee Valley Tools' systems and "works as our corporate system of record." All transactions regardless of medium (in store, catalog, Web) ultimately process through and reside permanently in the database. "It's the database from which we drive all of our operations," Lee says. "It's where we can handle all of our customer contacts and keep all of our records." A key use of the database is to support the retailer's differentiating automatic refund service. Lee Valley Tools automatically sends refunds to customers who have bought products that are later reduced in price. The database, which captures about 80 percent of all transactions with names and addresses, enables this capability. In addition to refunds, the retailer also sends automatic recall notices.
Lee Valley Tools does a "substantial amount of product development" itself. "Some of the functions that we want to do are just not in the interest of the general user base," Lee says, so the retailer builds the applications it wants on top of the CW foundation. "It's a valuable tool that let's us run our business the way we want to run our business." For instance, "we went our own route with a gift card program because we have to be able to take gift cards" on a cross-channel basis - in the retail stores, on the Web site and over the phone. The program was coded in-house, but utilized some of the data structures within the CW platform.