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IBM Retail Software Targets Omni-Channel Shoppers

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Posted January 16, 2013 By Pedro Hernandez     Feedback

Consumer behavior is changing, finds an IBM study. In response, Big Blue is rolling out analytics-backed retail apps to help retailers snag savvy shoppers.

IBM took the wraps off new retailing software and solutions offerings under its Smarter Commerce banner during NRF 2013, the National Retail Federation's annual conference and tradeshow, this week in New York City.

The products arrive in the wake of changing shopping habits, according to Craig Hayman, general manager of IBM's Industry Solutions business unit.  "The digital experience is influencing changes in the store and online, and the winners are those that are making omni-channel retailing a reality today from pre-sale to post-sales service," he stated in a company release.

The Internet is making a profound impact on consumer behavior, according to a study from the IBM Institute for Business Value. The company surveyed 26,000 shoppers in 14 countries for insights into their interactions with retail channels.

Savvy Shoppers and Showroomers

IBM's study shows that while physical retail locations still reign as the go-to shopping destination, e-commerce is exerting an increasingly irresistible pull for many consumers. The company found that while 84 percent of those surveyed made their most recent non-grocery purchase in a brick-and-mortar store, a third said that they couldn't say with confidence if a physical store or an online shop would win their next purchase.

The study exposed another reason for brick-and-mortar retailers to be concerned. IBM reports that almost half of online shoppers were "showroomers," essentially shoppers that get eyes- and hands-on time with a product in a store but complete their purchase online or at another retailer that offers a lower price.

All told, 25 percent of showroomers polled by IBM said they first planned to make an in-store purchase but those plans were derailed by (presumably positive) online experiences. A majority, 65 percent, said they planned to complete their next purchase online.

Lastly, the study suggests that shoppers are willing to expend some effort to let retailers get to know them better, at least at first. IBM discovered that 89 percent of shoppers were OK with spending 20 minutes (on average) to create a profile if it leads to better offers. Fifty-five percent said they expect retailers to take their buying histories into account for relevant promotions.

"In other words, shoppers are willing to help the retailer initially, but the long-term heavy lifting is up to the retailer – not the shopper," summarized IBM.

To help retailers navigate this tricky territory  IBM announced a new Smarter Commerce slate of products that includes software from IBM Labs and a cloud-based analytics suite aimed at marketers.

Analytics Driving Smarter Commerce

On the in-store shopping front, the company has teamed with Toshiba for a retail store application called TCxGravity that delivers for consumers an "omni-channel experience, in and out of the store," according to the company. Meant to bridge the worlds of online and in-person shopping, TCxGravity enables store employees to manage orders taken from another channel, offer alternatives to out-of-stock items and offer products based on a customer's buying history.

For marketers, IBM is rolling out new real-time analytics solutions, including Digital Data Exchange, software that allows retailers to deliver more personalized shopping experiences.  Digital Data Exchange collects and shares behavioral data with third-party services, resulting in fuller and more precise customer profiles.

Big Blue's eCommerce software and services slate also incorporates technology from Tealeaf Technology, the customer experience management specialist  IBM acquired  last year amid an analytics buying streak. Attribution Modeler from IBM Labs allows retailers to determine the effectiveness of their sales channels. True to the company's omni-channel view of the retail landscape, Attribution Modeler "provides a complete view of all campaign activities and responses by each customer – across mobile, social, online, call center, email and offline," said IBM.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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