More Power in Hands of Customers
IBM officials note that a shift is occurring as social networking and mobile communications are putting more power into the hands of customers. Today, 70 percent of a customer's first interaction with a product or service takes place online, 64 percent of customers make a first purchase because of a digital experience, and of the 2 billion people connected to the Internet, more than 600 million are on Facebook. This is compounded by an explosion of mobile purchases, which is tripling annually to $119 billion this year alone. In a blog post on the new initiative, Steve Hamm, an IBM communications strategist, said:"It's a buyer's world now," Hayman said in a statement. "Businesses require a tighter and highly responsive network of suppliers and partners to ensure they deliver the right product or service at the right price, time and place. The key to business success in this unfolding environment is predicting trends and automating market responses in advance to eliminate the gaps between buy and sell, supply and demand." "If they are going to engage with customers that are more connected-but not necessarily more connected to the people making and selling products and services-businesses require a new set of capabilities that start with the ability to hear the global conversations taking place about their products and brands," said Paul Papas, global Smarter Commerce practice leader in IBM Global Business Services, in a statement. "This new level of insight has to be followed by an entirely different kind of engagement with these customers, including a tighter and highly responsive network of suppliers and partners." IBM is not alone in its effort to automate the sales and marketing process. Competitors such as Microsoft, Oracle and even Adobe Systems have signaled their intent to get more involved in the space. Most recently, Adobe launched a new effort aimed at automating the marketing process for customers. However, Hayman told eWEEK that a big difference between what IBM has put together and what competitors offer is that "each of the companies we acquired are leaders in their individual spaces, and we brought them together to deliver an end-to-end story." Moreover, IBM is working with more than 2,000 global brands clients such as global food producer Danone, Mckesson Medical, Mousejaw Mountaineering, Staples, US Lumber and 1-800-FLOWERS to ensure they are marketing to the right audience at the right time; engaging buyers seamlessly in all the right channels and mediums; maintaining inventory levels precisely aligned to demand; and automating their supply chains for maximum efficiency. "Being competitive today means being a lot smarter about all facets of commerce, from initial marketing efforts to customer interaction in the buying and selling phase to the product delivery and subsequent service that ensure customer satisfaction," said Steve Bozzo, chief information officer at 1-800-Flowers, in a statement. "We optimized our entire order lifecycle and improved the customer experience with a comprehensive solution from IBM that manages incoming orders from multiple channels like the Web and call centers in a timely accurate way."
"This big shift in how customers connect brings profound consequences-redefining the term 'commerce.' What used to be seen as a flow of goods from manufacturers through a distribution chain to customers has become an interactive feedback loop, where consumers, producers, distributors, the media, and marketers all have new roles to play. Smart companies see 'selling' not so much as a traditional function of their organization but rather as an ever-evolving set of services they perform for their customers-in concert with their business partners. Done well, when you market to individuals, it's not an intrusion but truly is a service to the consumer."