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'Smarter Commerce' to Aid IBM Customers

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Posted March 15, 2011 By Stuart J. Johnston     Feedback

IBM launches new software and consulting services aimed at social commerce.

In less than 20 years, the Web has changed many industries from top to bottom, hardly any as much as in the areas of sales and marketing. Consumers today frequently browse for the best deals online and purchase products using their mobile devices.

The pace of change is driving all sorts of organizations to redefine the very nature of selling.

To answer what it sees as a burgeoning need among its customers to adapt more quickly to these tectonic shifts, IBM (NYSE: IBM) this week is introducing a new consulting practice, educational resources, and software for business optimization.

IBM dubbed its new offerings the Smarter Commerce initiative and plans to help customers move more quickly in a world where the sales models themselves are changing dramatically.

"The new software and services offerings, supported by global sales and marketing resources, will address the spectrum of enterprise commerce activities — new ways to buy, sell and secure greater customer loyalty in the era of mobile and social networks," an IBM statement said.

IBM estimates that the market opportunity for its Smarter Commerce initiative could run as high as $70 billion.

At the heart of the initiative is IBM's WebSphere Commerce server along with Big Blue's $2.5 billion in acquisitions in the past year of Sterling Commerce, Unica, and Coremetrics.

The technologies and products that the initiative embraces can be used in on-premises or cloud-based environments.

In terms of what each brings to the party, Sterling provides business-to-business integration software, Unica brings interactive marketing analytics, and Coremetrics supplies cloud-based Web analytics applications used to provide insight into customer interactions.

How disruptive is the shift in commerce to a social network model?

According to IBM, 70 percent of customers have their first experience with a product or service on the Web, while 64 percent make an initial buy due to the online experience. In fact, of some two billion users on the Internet, more than 600 million of them have Facebook pages.

Indeed, IBM said, purchases made via mobile devices have been tripling every year — and are projected to reach $119 billion in 2011.

The global consulting practice plans to provide deep insights into Smarter Commerce.

For instance, new cloud analytics software lets companies "monitor their brands presence in real-time through social media channels to better assess the effectiveness of new services and product offerings, fine tune marketing campaigns and create sales initiatives in real-time," the statement said.

IBM's software automates the design and delivery of personalized campaigns and promotions for services and products online, or through mobile devices.

Meanwhile, Big Blue is also creating what it calls an "IBM University" meant to deliver educational materials required to enable partners and sellers to learn skills necessary to survive in the Smarter Commerce marketplace.

Additionally, an "IBM University" will provide educational resources for sellers and partners to build the job skills required for the Smarter Commerce marketplace," IBM said.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

For more on how social media is changing sales and customer service, see Ten Ways Social Media is Changing Sales and CRM

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