Online Consumers Are Savvy Shoppers, IBM Survey Finds

IBM launches a Center of Competency (CoC) for retail to help cost-conscious businesses better tailor their online offerings through self-service reporting and faster access to their store performance.

A global survey conducted by IBM of more than 32,000 consumers found technology is giving shoppers a new source of power -- pushing retailers to engage them more directly via increased use of personalized promotions and offerings. The study also revealed that while shoppers are showing increased demand for multiple technology channels, they want to use different technologies for different activities. For instance, 79 percent want to use Websites to access and print coupons, 75 percent want to use mobile phones to find out where the nearest store is located and 66 percent want to see what goods are in stock before going into the store.

From the consumers' eyes, the top areas of improvement for retailers were around delivering customized promotions and ensuring product availability, and 61 percent of respondents said they would spend more with a retailer if they got these two areas right. In addition, IBM's analysis shows that consumers are increasingly ready to use technologies to interact both with retailers and with other consumers, and this trend is even more pronounced in growth markets, particularly in Brazil, China and India.

To help retailers address these operational mandates, IBM is launching a new Center of Competency (CoC) for retail that will provide industry expertise in the areas of business analytics, customer insights and merchandising. Jill Puleri, IBM global industry retail executive for IBM Global Business Services, said businesses are in a shopper's market today, because consumer access to technology and information gives them all the power. "Retailers cannot afford to sit still as this digital revolution happens," she said. "They must engage plugged-in consumers in new and different ways, on their terms, and with more bi-directional feedback and dialogue."

IBM points to that Vineyard Vines, a mid-sized lifestyle brand and retailer of preppy clothing, which is using IBM technology to bridge the gap between its various shopping channels while providing customers with a more targeted and personalized shopping experience based on their purchasing history and preferences. Vineyard Vines is using IBM WebSphere Commerce to standardize its in-store, online and traditional catalog business on a single platform.

"Growing our business meant we needed to take a customer-focused approach - providing a uniform experience whether a customer is shopping online or in person," said CEO and Co-Founder Ian Murray. "For us, getting a clear and accurate view of the customer required technology that would allow us to know more about them - where they shop, what they buy and how often. We sought a solution to help us deliver a brand experience beyond individual channels. With WebSphere Commerce we have found it."

MarineMax, the largest recreational boat retailer in the United States, is also using IBM business analytics to streamline operational planning, improve decision-making, and enforce more consistent, collaborative information access across the company. Jeremy Wilson, the company's vice president of information technology, said IBM business analytics and performance management is helping them achieve a smarter and more efficient operational model. "The company is now better able to strengthen collaboration between finance, human resources, marketing, and store operations, ensuring MarineMax remains agile in responding to market challenges, capitalizing on new opportunities and providing the best shopping experience for our customers," he said.