IBM engagement with key customers is part of the company's strategy to tap into the $20 billion market for Smarter Commerce software. IBM announced that it is helping a range of global business leaders across major industries, such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bank of America, ConocoPhillips,, Office Depot, Radio Shack and Virgin Atlantic Airways, better connect with their customers.

At the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit IBM said businesses are looking for new ways to connect with their customers by accelerating key business processes such as marketing, sales, and customer service, driving faster business results.

IBM is also forecasting key Smarter Commerce trends, including the prevalence of intelligent-guided customer experiences, mobile-first business strategies and the growth of hybrid cloud computing as the primary means for entering new markets. From procurement and supply chain, marketing and sales, to customer service, companies are re-engineering key business processes to meet the preferences of their increasingly powerful and demanding clients, essentially their new chief executives, IBM said.

Smarter commerce approach

IBM is helping more than 2,000 global brands transform operations focused on their customers. A variety of chief marketing officers (CMOs), CIOs and other business leaders from many companies such as Husqvarna, Lenovo, Norwegian Cruise Line, SHOP.CA, Staples, Urban Outfitters and Wacoal joined IBM at the summit and to present the business results they have achieved after working with IBM and shifting to a Smarter Commerce approach.

"The old adage 'the customer is always right' has evolved,” said Craig Hayman, general manager, IBM Industry Solutions. “The customer is dictating the terms under which commerce is conducted. The new 'chief executive customer' expects companies to respect their time, preferences, values and privacy. Meeting these expectations requires insight, innovation and a system of engagement that delivers an intelligent guided customer experience at every touch point."

IBM identifies Smarter Commerce as a growing market opportunity in excess of $20 billion per year in software alone -the overall market is worth $90 billion -that centres on the customer experience. In five years, intelligent-guided marketing and selling will routinely put the ultimate control in the hands of customers, allowing them to indicate what they are in the market for, IBM said. In this “new normal,” businesses will have the ability to scan who is looking for what and make offers to customers to meet their preferences. Consumers will expect at most to wait just minutes or seconds for offers to come in and select the one they like.

Data driven world

Some of the key trends that will drive the evolution and expansion of Smarter Commerce include that everything will be data-driven. They will stem from buying behaviorr, social media interactions and advanced analytics, and customers will project what they are in the market for, instead of settling for what's available on the shelf. Companies will respond within seconds, essentially bidding for each individual's business. Sharpening analytics will help businesses across all industries anticipate and predict what customers want. The vision of marketing to a universe of one is realized.

Another trend is that businesses will go mobile first. IBM predicts that businesses will primarily design applications and processes for mobile deployment instead of PCs as individuals centre their lives on smartphones and device use explodes exponentially. Location-based services will expand individualised offers, and drive acceleration of business processes and reduction of costs. Frictionless payments will remove obstacles to impulse buying, leading to less predictable market shifts in consumer demand and requiring greater analytics to decipher.

Mobile and cloud

In addition, cloud computing will lead businesses to new markets, IBM said. Established companies will deploy a hybrid cloud model for rapid expansion to new markets while newer players will use the cloud in a virtual inventory model to start up quickly and cost-effectively compete against larger competitors, IBM said. Businesses realize immediate returns with instant deployments, reducing capital budgets. Cloud technology will serve as the primary means for people to quickly connect with social and collaborative business networks, Big Blue said.

IBM said many companies are already on the path toward Smarter Commerce, meeting the expectations of the chief executive customer. To help organizations realize the full potential of Smarter Commerce, IBM is teaming up with First Data in a consortiumof industry leaders, including Kohl's, Nordstrom, CardSpring, Citi and others that bring together retail, financial and technology institutions to share and establish best practices in retail commerce.

Meanwhile, RadioShack, a retailer of mobile and technology products, services and accessories, is working with IBM’s DemandTec cloud solutions designed to help CMOs and their teams improve price image and pricing operations throughout the entire pricing lifecycle.

Virgin Atlantic Airways engaged IBM Web analytics and strategic consulting services to better understand its customers' online preferences and enable more precise marketing activities. Virgin Atlantic has been able to cater more effectively to customers and successfully evaluate and monitor site performance.


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