These days, empowered customers are more demanding and influential than ever before. Just look at the ways social shopping has changed how people browse and buy. Whether they’re buying shoes, cereal, or sports cars, consumers are making more and more purchase decisions based on the opinions they gain from their social networks. This shift has happened fast – and many organizations are scrambling to keep up.
This is especially true for their supply chains. In fact, according to a recent Supply Chain Visibility survey from Aberdeen Research, 65% of companies are trying to either acquire or enhance their ability to dynamically align their supply chain based on customer profile data. And there’s a reason so many organizations are struggling – customer data is part of the solution, but it’s also part of the problem. A massive amount of information about customers is generated with every touch and transaction. And most businesses are unprepared to handle it – for a number of reasons. Do any of them sound familiar to your organization?
They Don’t Have Time to Adjust: In fast-paced industries like consumer packaged goods or food and beverages, it’s not just the volume of data, it’s the velocity. Customer data is being generated rapidly as the supply chain works double-time to meet their shifting demands. In industries where products have a short shelf life (because of high usage or perishability), there’s a need to move goods through the supply chain faster to prevent outages and waste. And in industries like fashion and apparel, demand for the hottest looks and latest trends has made selling seasons shorter than ever.
They Don’t Have the Right Tools and Resources: According to a recent Big Data survey from Aberdeen, lack of infrastructure and lack of expertise were collectively the biggest challenges facing companies. The rapid expansion of online, social, and mobile channels has caused an explosion of customer data – and very few companies are equipped to deal with it. Whether it’s a shortage of the right people, people, processes, or technologies, businesses today are struggling to manage and leverage massive amounts of data.
They Can’t Communicate and Share Effectively: Distributing data across multiple systems is a huge challenge for many businesses today. According to Aberdeen, 66% of companies surveyed say they struggle to break down internal silos and integrate business data across multiple systems. That means the supply chain is often asked to perform with limited or fragmented visibility into customer driven insights. And lack of communication and integration between groups like marketing and operations causes huge amounts of inefficiency in the form of out-of-stocks and lower fulfillment rates.
What can you do to overcome these challenges and create a customer-focused supply chain? Watch this webinar with experts from Aberdeen to learn how to leverage customer data and turn it into insights that can help drive efficiency in your supply chains.
With baseball on the brain as I watch my beloved Boston Red Sox compete in the playoffs, it occurred to me this week that IBM won the “Triple Crown” of ecommerce. In baseball the Triple Crown is awarded when a single player finishes the season with the highest batting average, the most home runs and runs batted in (RBI’s). IBM’s ecommerce Triple Crown came when Forrester Research gave IBM the highest ranking for B2B commerce suites in their first of a kind Wave report for B2B commerce. IBM now holds the top ranking in all three leading analyst reports, which include: Forrester’s Wave for B2B commerce suites, Forrester’s Wave for B2C commerce Suites and Gartner, Inc’s Magic Quadrant for ecommerce.
Ecommerce isn’t just for retailers anymore, according to Forrester projected B2B online revenue is 2x that of B2C online revenue and is expected to exceed $500B (USD) in 2013. The growth is driven by B2B companies responding to customer demands for more online capabilities by improving web based ordering and online shopping with tools and techniques pioneered in the B2C space. Forrester says “IBM possesses a deep understanding of the needs of its B2B clients”, which coupled with our leading ecommerce solutions uniquely positions us to help B2B companies keep pace with customer demands.
Although IBM won’t win a World Series this fall, IBM commerce solutions are helping customers like J.J. Keller & Associates hit it out of the park, like all-time greats and past baseball Triple Crown winners Frank Robinson, Micky Mantle and Ted Williams.
Go Red Sox - Fear the Beard!
This past weekend I spent the afternoon doing one of my least favorite things – shopping. I do not mind going to the store and buying what I need and then leaving, but my wife insists on going through the entire store to make sure no hidden treasure is missed. As I was waiting for my wife to find that hidden treasure, I noticed signs that were posted throughout the store advertising the availability of their store associates, in brightly colored shirts, to help in locating an item if customers could not find it in the store. Since I work with positioning omni-channel solutions every day, I thought this was a great idea. However, I found that the associates were not truly enabled to quickly provide this help.
When it came to locating items in other store locations, the associates were relying on outdated processes. My wife found a coat she liked, but the size was wrong and there appeared to be no more available on the rack. She approached one of the associates in the brightly colored shirts and asked if there were any more in the back of the store. The associate said that there were no more in the store, but she could call other locations to see if they had the item. My wife agreed, and that extended my shopping experience by 15 minutes. When the associate finally returned, she had located the coat at another store and said we could pick it up at that location, or we could pay for shipping and have it shipped to our house. My wife told the associate that she was a preferred customer and shipping should be free, but the associate said that it did not apply since it was not purchased online. Needless to say, we did not purchase the coat.
It always surprises me that well-known retailers continue to struggle to meet the demands of customers by implementing processes that do not take into account the foundation needed to efficiently and satisfactorily address customer wants. Without a strong foundation, as many homebuilders will attest, the rest of the structure crumbles. There are varying degrees of omni-channel enablement that stores can employ to help the customer, but they should all start with a strong foundational solution that provides the flexibility to enable their employees to provide a pleasurable shopping experience that maintains the loyalty of the customer and increases sales. Let me know some of your stories that you have around this issue and click on the link if you want more information about store enablement.
As the holiday season “gracefully” moves upon us, I have already began to notice the amount of “snail mail” and emails sent fluttered with ads, offers, and coupons! Not to mention the digital ads on Facebook, Pandora, Google, Groupon, Amazon, etc. Some offers are from places I often shop – and will definitely take advantage of the savings they are offering. However some of the promotions I am receiving are either from places I have never been too or it has been months since I have visited them on-line or stepped foot in to one of their stores. On the other hand – the majority of the digital advertisements I receive to my email and more specifically my mobile device are catered to my shopping habits. My husband receives ads almost daily on his mobile device from men’s clothing stores like Brooks Brothers or Men’s Wearhouse. Just this past weekend he received a push notification to his phone making him aware there were only a few hours left on a clearance sale; he responds to the notification and within minutes he purchased a new suit all from his mobile device – now I call that successful marketing!
With customer data being produced at every click of the mouse, swipe of a loyalty card, or use of a mobile device it renders the fact that retailers need an easy way to analyze this data to create unique marketing campaigns and promotions. Being able to fine-tune and optimize every e-commerce vehicle with the right message at the right time will help increase sales this holiday season, especially those promotions on mobile devices.
Click here for a great story of how IBM helped SHOP.ca deliver a truly customer-centric shopping experience by turning insights into action based on how, when, and where to reach their shoppers with personalized offers!
There’s been a lot of press the last few months about retailers using various technologies to track the movement of shoppers through their brick-and-mortar stores. The amount of backlash some of these retailers have received over their attempts to locate shoppers in the store is quite surprising to me. I’m guessing that many of the same consumers upset about the prospect of being digitally located while in a store are the same individuals who have cookies enabled for online shopping, don’t think twice about creating online profiles or use mobile social media apps such as Foursquare, Yelp and Facebook to check in and announce their location to the world.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are only now attempting what online retailers have been doing for years. Amazon and other online retailers collect volumes of shopper data and use very sophisticated tools and technologies to better understand and more effectively market to their online shoppers. The same concepts that are used to provide relevant product recommendations, coupons and other promotions to online shoppers are now be applied to the in store shopping experience using smart phone technology.
Although consumers should be concerned about their privacy, the reality is if you own and use a cell phone your location is known. Cellular service providers use GPS or cellular triangulation methods to determine your precise location out of doors, and increasingly are selling anonymous location data to various companies and marketing and sales agencies. With recent advances in technology retailers are simply extending location awareness to the store where GPS doesn’t work and cellular triangulation accuracy is problematic.
To retailers, our smart phone devices are seen as a cache of shopper information, behavioral data and a conduit that will enable them to unify the online and in store customer experience, and deliver new and innovative types of in store service and support. In store location technology just may be the silver bullet brick-and-mortar retailers need to combat the revenue and margin erosion they’ve experienced from online retailers the past 10 years. However, retailers need to take a careful and measured approach to the deployment and use of such technology, for one misstep with customer data or breach of customer trust can do irreparable damage to a brand. Above all, retailers must protect their brand and seek technology partners that have proven track records of stability and security and a similar brand reputation to uphold.
Like it or not, in store shopper location technology is here to stay and I suspect consumers will eventually accept it as they begin to experience benefits from retailers knowing where we are and have been in the store. So, this holiday season make sure your mobile WiFi is turned on while you’re shopping, opt-in to store communications and let your smart phone work for you to find discounts or coupons. Personally, I relish the idea of my smart phone saving me a few bucks for a change.
Let me know how you feel about retailers tracking your cell phone in a store with this short survey.
The opportunity to optimize transportation and supply chain planning is greater than ever before, and many organizations are starting to understand the importance of Transportation Management System (TMS) in supply chain management. With Software-as-a-Service changing the game by making solutions that were once only available to those with deep pockets much more accessible and less risky, leading organizations are expanding their current supply chain capabilities by taking advantage of TMS delivered as SaaS. TMS as a service has made it easier than ever to facilitate planning, execution, management, and measurement—the key cornerstones of transportation.
Why is it, then, that so many companies are slow to adopt? Many organizations cite four factors that keep them from implementing a TMS solution:
Cost: Cost is often given as a reason for not embracing TMS. But companies that implement TMS see excellent returns on their investments, and these days, most TMS systems require no capital investment.
Time: For many organizations, SaaS TMS implementations can be completed within a month. And rapid deployment means faster ROI.
Lack of expertise: Not having the expertise to implement a solution is no longer a barrier, either. TMS can be bundled with managed services, which can be implemented regardless of geography or operating platform.
Conflicting priority: It can be hard to get TMS considered when there are so many competing concerns. But as the benefits become more obvious, executives are realizing that TMS is actually aligned with their strategic goals.
Change can be challenging—but failure to change can be damaging. For many companies, the solution to overcoming these barriers is to start small, demonstrate value and ROI, and allow the savings of the initial rollout to fund the next steps.
Watch this webinar with Ted Zeigler, Vice President at ABF Supply Chain solutions, to get an in-depth look at the benefits of TMS as a service. Find out how companies are reducing direct and indirect costs, driving improved quality of services, and increasing visibility to ensure better performance with transportation management solutions.
Worldwide Research Lead, Retail, IBM
On Nov 26th, 2013 IBM announced a new product in its Smarter Commerce portfolio of products called IBM Presence Zones. Presence Zones provides location based services and analytics indoors, enabling IBM to merge its advanced Commerce capabilities on the web with brick and mortar Retail.
How did this come to be? It all started in IBM's Haifa Research Lab (HRL) more than 6 years ago where I was HRL’s lead for the Telecommunications Industry, having had extensive experience in Telco before joining IBM. At that time any thoughts about location based services automatically meant Telco, since mobile phones were not as sophisticated compared to the smartphones we carry today. However, Telco had to know the rough location of the phones in order to route calls to them.
What is an x,y coordinate worth to an advertiser or someone wanting to use the location for personalized services? Nothing! It was apparent to me and the IBM Research team in Haifa that the secret sauce was understanding the meaning/context of the location, and so we created a system to do just that. With a prototype in hand and several patents in our pocket, we tried desperately to convince Telco’s to sell such information to advertisers and/or use it to personalize the services they offered to their subscribers. We hit a brick wall. Telco’s were raking in revenue from their core business, with little regulation or competition in the market. They didn’t get it and it didn’t interest them.
Luckily for us, I realized that Retailers understood the importance of it! Their challenge was to analyze consumer’s location indoors, and so the IBM Research team switched focus to indoor location detection. The initial analysis was based on bluetooth, since mobile devices 4-5 years ago had bluetooth but did not yet have WIFI or GPS. We realized rather quickly that smartphones were going to be the future, and shifted to using WIFI.
The journey was an uphill battle, it took some time to convince the team to understand what the power of smartphones would bring in the future. The day I started working at IBM, Oded Cohn head of HRL, said to me that if someone in IBM said no to an idea I believed in, I should continue pursuing and find someone among the 429,999 remaining people who will say yes. While searching for that person, the team continued to work on the project funding it through IBM’s FOAKs, European Union funding, and various joint programs.
At the end of 2012 a major WIFI provider expressed desire in licensing the technology from Research. It was finally time for IBM to make the decision whether to enter the market or give the technology away.
In Q1 2013 John Mesberg, IBM’s Vice President of B2B and Commerce Solutions and his team made the decision to productize IBM's Research asset. We did it! By combining Presence Zones with WebSphere Commerce, Unica, Coremetrics, and other products in the Smarter Commerce portfolio, IBM is able to help merge the virtual and physical worlds.
To learn more about IBM PresenceZones click here.
At this week's National Retail Federation, IBM is showcasing Presence Zones, a new solution that unifies in-store, online, and mobile shopping into a single customer experience. Developed in our research labs, PresenceZones helps retailers transform in-store experience by allowing you to understand customer preferences, what they’re looking for, and how you can serve them better.
Learn more about IBM Presence Zones and the customer insights it can bring to your market today. Visit IBM at NRF Big Show Booth #1818.
Also, check out our new demo video now available on IBM’s Smarter Commerce channel.
Product Manager, IBM Commerce Solutions
In today’s hyper competitive retail environment, retailers must continuously innovate to keep their brand fresh and exciting and to capitalize on new market opportunities. This particularly applies online where we continue to see innovations such as new interactive ways of visualizing products and totally new approaches for delivering product faster to the customer. This is as true for B2B as it is for B2C.
Delivering new e-commerce capabilities faster and more efficiently than the competition is critical to success. This often requires change to business operations and processes as well as to IT systems. Though it’s not uncommon to hear about frustration from the business where IT is perceived as a drogue on business change – maintaining a safe course, but slowing the business from surfing the waves of opportunity. In reality, IT has been doing its job diligently using traditional practices to protect the business. Is there another way?
It’s common to look for incremental improvements to deliver new capabilities faster and more efficiently – but it can pay dividends to step back and look at the bigger picture. It historically has been a resource and time consuming process to drive each new release through the build and various test and performance test systems before deployment to production. It no longer needs to be like this.
The WebSphere Commerce Pattern for IBM PureApplication System enables IT to deliver capability to the business faster and is set to fundamentally change the perception the business has of IT from one of slowing innovation to one of driving it through. For WebSphere Commerce V7 Enterprise Edition customers, IBM now provides a PureApplication System Virtual System Pattern for both Red Hat Enterprise Linux on x86 and for AIX on Power.
IBM customers with IBM PureApplication System, will be able to take advantage of the Virtual System Patterns and deploy their WebSphere Commerce application to each environment in about an hour. This is a step change. Multiplying that out for all environments and across regular releases of new business capability into production will return huge savings in time and resources. Custom enhancements, new Feature Packs and fix packs can all be deployed quickly and easily through the IBM PureApplication System Workload Console.
There are other benefits too. In a world where protecting the brand from adverse publicity is paramount, often we see business with as many as eight different environments on the path to production to ensure the quality of each release into production. Keeping all these environments in synch can be a challenge using traditional deployment methods. PureApplication System Patterns create a repeatable process to help ensure that each of you environments is at the same level and giving you confidence that what you tested, is what you put live.
It’s worth taking a closer look. For more information visit the IBM PureSystems Center or the IBM Commerce Solution page.
I saw a commercial the other day from a pizza franchise and was very surprised that they were admitting that their call center service was awful. They go on to say that customers should not call them, but instead, they should only order pizzas online. Many companies may not go to this extent, but they encourage their customers to contact them online, or visit them in person. They do this by creating helpful sites that offer catalogs, online discounts, FAQ’s and forums. The reason, apparently, is the costs associated with a call center. There are people costs, hardware and software costs, training, etc. Offering alternatives to the call center is not bad business, in fact many times we would rather use self-service tools to order and obtain information anyway. But there are other times when we just want to speak to a live person about a specific question or concern.
Companies need to realize that this is an important channel, and an opportunity to differentiate their brand, and should use call center interactions as revenue generators rather than just a necessary evil. These same companies that direct customers to online self-service sites, spend millions of dollars each year to engage prospective and current customers and they are missing an opportunity with the call center. Utilizing the right call center solution, companies can efficiently provide informed interactions that can be very effective in closing a sale, offering alternatives when items are out of stock in a specific location, and up-selling additional products. The ability to talk to a live person will always have value. While I might take the discount on the pizza, I would rather have an informed agent when I have a question that cannot be answered online. Why not use the call center as a differentiator from competitors and offer informed interactions as an alternative to a discount. See how IBM’s call center solution can help create informed omni-channel conversations http://www-01.ibm.com/software/commerce/order-management/call-center/
Indoor location awareness is the new trend in the digital era for customer engagement. As we all know consumers are more connected now than ever before and they expect a consistent brand experience regardless of the channel they prefer to shop. Consumers desire the option to start their shopping process in one channel, and possibly price match and compare products in a store as part of the final purchase. This sense of empowerment creates the need for you to connect and optimize your merchandising across all channels and supporting commerce technologies, such as indoor location awareness, to facilitate personalized marketing activities to enhance the store experience, maintain customer loyalty and develop repeat sales.
Indoor location technology with the power of analytics creates the ability to bring the physical and digital worlds together. You can now have a 360 view of your customers to fully understand what their shopping preferences and buying behaviors are across all channels to better serve them. But developing a location awareness strategy is no trivial task. Here are a few key topics you should be thinking about as you evaluate and explore new indoor location services for your organization:
Assess your customer service capabilities and understand how indoor location services would add value to your in store experience.
Ask your organization if they are satisfied with the level of insight you have to your in store customers buying behaviors and browsing patters?
Don’t be blinded by all the hype in the market. Make sure to evaluate and understand the full capabilities and components available by each vendor. Some vendors may only provide the sensing layer and not the full actionable layer of analytics or precision marketing capabilities to take action on the data.
Understand your mobile strategy and how indoor location services would play a part of that strategy in your stores.
Make sure all parties are involved when evaluating indoor location services to help justify the investment (Store Operations, Marketing, eCommerce, IT, Supply Chain, etc.)
There’s no question in order to provide a seamless unified customer experience you need to embrace indoor location services and integrate into your omni-channel strategy. Learn more about how IBM Presence Zones incorporates deep analytics with a "software agnostic" approach to precision marketing along with a suite of commerce applications.
Today we live in a right-now world where everything is happening in the blink of an eye. How can you make every moment count with your customers? At the 2014 Smarter Commerce Global Summit, you'll discover new ways to transform your commerce and supply chain strategy by creating a unified approach to marketing, selling and fulfillment processes across channels.
Check out some of the sessions that are scheduled to help make every customer interaction personal, memorable, and valuable:
• Using Innovation to Deliver Moments that Matter: Learn how digital technology is creating a new generation that thinks, plays and relates to commerce in radically different ways and how that will shape your go to market strategies for omni-channel commerce.
• Digital Commerce 2020 - Top 10 Trends Shaping Tomorrow's Sales: Leverage the top ten commerce trends from Gartner Research to enable new ways to engage customers, drive sales and create competitive roadblocks.
• Field Sales Execution - Where Revenue and Margin is Won and Lost: Learn how Comcast streamlined the seller's configure to order process, while empowering business users to set product, pricing, and promotion control that improves margin execution.
• The Omni-Channel Store Imperative: Forrester Research explores what it really means to be a best-in-class Omni-Channel retailer, and why in today's disruptive online retail landscape Omni-Channel is an imperative, not an option.
• Modeling a Big Box Supply Chain: Learn how Sears Holding built a supply chain network planning model to evaluate the myriad of stocking combinations at the SKU and ship-point level to design a robust network, in order to meet the increasingly targeted and flexible service demands of the business units.
Click here to view the complete list of sessions and check out the special guest speakers. Register now for the 2014 Smarter Commerce Global Summit!
Hope to see you in Tampa!
Each year our friends at Internet Retailer publish their Top 500 report, which ranks top online retailers around the world based on annual web sales. The report provides a wealth of information that can help retailers benchmark their performance against the best online retailers in the world for KPI’s such as conversion rate, average order value, site response times, etc. Additionally, the report gives solution providers insight to how their software solutions are being used by these top retailers.
Based on the reported data for 2013 web sales, IBM Commerce Solutions, for the 7th consecutive year power more Top 500 online retailer sales than any other platform provider. In fact, it wasn’t even close; IBM Commerce solutions transacted over 50% more online sales than the next closest e-commerce solution provider.
So, you’re probably wondering how retailers using IBM Commerce solutions consistently dominate the Internet Retailer Top 500 report. At first glance it appears fairly simple, online revenue is a product of site traffic, conversion rate and average order value. More traffic, higher conversion rates and higher average order values lead to more revenue, but in reality it’s a bit more complex. Retailers need to be able to personalize, have visibility across their enterprise (and beyond) to leverage inventory across channels and be able to maximize the brand competitive differentiation.
When you think about commerce software provider’s in these terms it’s no surprise that retailers using IBM Commerce solutions enjoy better performance with regard to key performance indicators such as:
Higher Conversion Rates Higher Avg Order Values Faster Site Response Times
IBM completes the profit equation by continually delivering tools and enhancements aimed at enabling retailers to be more responsive to consumers and effective at driving business results. It’s no coincidence that retailers using IBM Commerce solutions outperform their peers.
Unlike some of the other solution providers, you won’t see an IBM press release announcing our position in the Internet Retailer report; we’ll just quietly go about our business of delivering leading commerce solutions to retailers around the world and help them continue to deliver differentiated and engaging digital customer experiences.
Click here to learn how IBM Commerce solutions drive better business results for retailers.
IBM continues to gain accolades for their e-commerce capabilities and solutions. The most recent, from IDC was released in June with a first of a kind MarketScape report for Worldwide Digital Commerce Applications. IBM was ranked among the leaders and recognized by IDC for being innovative, having a rich set of commerce features and a well-established commerce partner ecosystem.
Last fall IBM captured the 'Triple Crown of e-commerce' with THE leadership position in Forrester’s Wave for B2B commerce suites, Forrester’s Wave for B2C commerce Suites and Gartner, Inc’s Magic Quadrant for ecommerce.
To be consistently ranked as a leader by top analysts like IDC requires vision, significant investment and the ability to execute flawlessly. IDC's vote of confidence reinforces the fact that IBM is able to deliver innovative omni-channel commerce capabilities to brands around the world. Just ask German electronics provider Media-Saturn who has "significantly boosted online sales' with help from IBM and IBM digital commerce solutions.
To learn more about IBM digital commerce visit us at ibm.com/omni-channel.
Recently I wrote about IBM’s leadership position in North American based on Internet Retailer’s Top 500 2014 data, that ranks online retailers' annual web sales. The analysts at Internet Retailer have been busy compiling and publishing data for other parts of the world and recently published their 2014 Europe Top 500 guide. A consistent trend has emerged in recent years across the Internet Retailer data sets… IBM customers drive more online transactions than retailers using any other 3rd party e-commerce solution.
In 2013 North American retailers using IBM Commerce solutions drove 50% more online revenue than their competitors using other 3rd party e-commerce solutions. With the latest 2014 Europe Top 500 data we learn that European retailers using IBM Commerce solutions also outpace their peers, transacting 20% more on-line revenue than retailers using other 3rd party e-commerce solutions.
Conversion Rate Response Time
Internet Retailer Top 500 Europe, 2014
As seen by analyzing the Internet Retailer data, IBM customers enjoy better performance in two key areas that depict the health and effectiveness of an on-line channel. Conversion Rates for IBM Commerce customers in Europe are on average 20% higher and site response times are faster, telling us IBM Commerce customers are more effective converting online traffic to shoppers and revenue.
As shoppers’ appetite for consistent and engaging omni-channel brand experiences grow, it becomes increasingly important for retailers to partner with commerce solution providers that can help them reimagine and reinvent their shopping experience. IBM has partnered with some of the leading brands in Europe like Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Media-Saturn to help them meet demands of the empowered customer and deliver a consistent and engaging brand experience across channels..
Click here to learn how IBM commerce solutions drive better business results for retailers.