Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘e-commerce’ Category

Gladly Pay You Tuesday…

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We’re finally getting some rain in central Texas.  We’ll see how long it lasts!

And on the topic of rainmaking, this just in from our friends at Nucleus Research.

Nucleus conducted an analysis of 21 of IBM Smarter Commerce case studies and their ROI, and discovered that for every dollar spent, companies realized an average of U.S. $12.05 in returns.

According to the research, this payback occurred in an average of 9 months (with a high of 23 months, and a low of two).

The cases Nucleus analyzed included U.S. and European companies and government agencies which had deployed IBM Smarter Commerce technologies.

All the case studies were developed independently by Nucleus, following their standard ROI methodology, and IBM was privy to the results only after the research was completed.

In their analysis, Nucleus also observed some summary conclusions, finding that Smarter Commerce projects delivered both top-line and bottom-line benefits, with roughly 60 percent of returns coming from indirect benefits such as productivity, and the rest from direct savings such as reduced operational costs or hires avoided.

Specific key benefits included the following:

  • Increased productivity. In many cases companies were able to accomplish more work with fewer staff or avoid additional hires as they grew by automating previously manual processes and increasing employee productivity.
  • Reduced costs. Smarter Commerce customers experienced cost reductions in areas such as customer call handling costs, technology costs, and other costs associated with supply chain transactions.
  • Improved inventory management. Greater visibility into customer demand and inventory levels enabled Smarter Commerce customers to gain better control over their inventory, reducing inventory carrying costs and increasing inventory turns.
  • Improved decision making. Greater agility and rapid insight into data for decision making enabled companies using Smarter Commerce to more quickly make decisions and act on them with confidence.
  • Reduced customer churn and increased customer satisfaction. Companies using IBM Business Analytics were able to more rapidly understand customer satisfaction and retain more profitable customers by proactively addressing customers’ propensity to churn. For example, one telecommunications customer was able to reduce customer churn by 8 percent in the first year and 18 percent in the second year by further refining its churn analysis.

Customers Leverage Prepackaged Functionality

Nucleus indicated that the $12.05 average return from Smarter Commerce was at the high end of the range of returns Nucleus had seen from other assessments of deployments such as analytics and CRM, and many IBM Smarter Commerce clients indicated they had achieved high returns by taking advantage of the investments IBM has made in providing integrated solutions, more intuitive user interfaces, and prepackaged industry functionality.

By way of example:

  • Integrated solutions and prepackaged industry functionality accelerate time to deployment and time to value while reducing overall project risk.
  • Usability improvements drive more rapid adoption and make it easier for companies to drive adoption of technologies such as business analytics to casual and business users beyond the data expert specialists that have historically been the primary users of analytics.

Industry-specific functionality and expertise were particularly important in the success of customers adopting Smarter Commerce technologies in the government sector, such as social services agencies and police departments, where IT often has limited resources.

You can go here to download the full report.

Talk To The Mannequin Middleman

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Middlemen have gotten a pretty bad wrap since the Internet came along.

First, it was the travel agents, who were one of the first to be “disintermediated” by sites like Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Why hire a person to do what a computer and network could do?

Although it turns out it wasn’t quite that easy, as we later discovered, and nearly 20 years later there are still travel agents, but they’ve evolved and often moved up the value stack in terms of their offerings. (As an example, whenever I book a scuba diving trip, I typically now use an exclusive provider of scuba vacation travel, and they’ve served me quite well…although, sigh, it’s been far too long since I went diving!)

At IBM, we’re only supposed to employ our American Express travel agents when we’re traveling overseas.  I, personally, don’t mind using our Online Travel Reservation system for planning my travel, but that Web-based system has never been the same as talking to a really good Amex travel agent, and it certainly has never made me laugh.

So this story in The New York Times caught my eye, which explains how e-commerce companies are “bypassing” the middlemen in a variety of e-commerce verticals.

From eyeglasses to office supplies to bedding to nail polish to shaving supplies, there are host of “smarter commerce” e-commerce ventures popping up that are “controlling the supply chain,” providing products and services to end consumers at lower costs than many big retailers while pocketing the disintermediated profits.

But before you leap headlong into a Web server (which, let’s be frank, could hurt!), let’s not forget that physical presence still matters.

CNBC reports that “what’s old is new again” for some e-commerce retailers, outlining that a “growing number of online retail companies are setting up physical stores” in response to trends like “showrooming,” whereby consumers do in-store flybys only to later make a purchase online.

IBM vice president and global retail leader Jill Puleri was quoted in the story with this observation: “If there’s one thing showrooming teaches us, it’s that consumers still want to see what they are buying in person.”

It goes on to cite data from IBM suggesting that “50 percent of online sales were generated after consumers first browesed offline.”

So what’s next? One could easily envision pop-up stores emerging in highly-trafficked areas around the world: airports, train stations, even shopping malls, where consumers could “touch and feel” the merchandise and then get incented to go and make an actual purchase online.

Now if they could just figure out a way to make those in-store mannequins just a little less creepy.

Holiday Shopping And Streaming

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Santa brought Turbo a new (used) set of vintage 1988 Ben Hogan "Redline" blade golf clubs...whether or not they'll do anything to help lower his handicap remains to be seen!

Santa brought Turbo a new (used) set of vintage 1988 Ben Hogan “Redline” blade golf clubs…whether or not they’ll do anything to help lower his handicap remains to be seen!

Well, I hope you and yours are having a happy holiday season, wherever in the world you may be.

I just returned from a wonderful visit to see my parents and some extended family up in my hometown of Denton, Texas, where we were treated to our first white Christmas in three years, the snow billowing down starting around mid-day Christmas Day, and plunging the Dallas/Ft. Worth roads into a virtual ice skating rink.

As for the Christmas holiday shopping season, Sarah Perez with TechCrunch just reported that Amazon.com once again came out on top, in terms of online satisfaction.

No big surprise there.  I conducted a large portion of my own holiday shopping via Amazon, and received everything I ordered within a few days. I also treated myself to a set of Ben Hogan 1988 “redline” blade golf clubs, which I discovered on eBay for a very agreeable price. Unfortunately, the weather in Texas has kept me off the golf course (now back in Austin, I hope for that to change in the next few days!).

Of course, if you were trying to watch movies on Netflix on Monday, you might have found yourself watching a blank screen. Due to an Amazon Web Services outage, Netflix viewers were treated to bags full of coal starting around 3:30 PM on Monday, AWS’s third major outage this year.

Myself, I went on a “Redbox” binge over the holiday, discovering some recent titles for $1.20 a pop (including the latest Spiderman!), only to discover they’ll be bringing some competition to the streaming realm with the introduction of “Redbox Instant,” expected to go into private beta sometime soon. Redbox Instant is expected to match Netflix’s monthly streaming subscription price of $8 U.S.

Whatever your preference, it certainly looks like more and more Americans will be viewing filmed entertainment on devices other than their TVs. Another TechCrunch story reports that one in four Americans now owns a tablet computing device, with such devices now even having overtaken the number of e-reading devices like the Kindle (again, I did my fair share here over the holidays, giving out two Kindle Fire HDs as family gifts. Now I can only cross my fingers my family will use them!)

Regardless of your preference, the story goes on to say that one in three people in the U.S. now owns some kind of tablet or e-reading device, and this data before the full gamut of holiday shopping data has hit analysts’ spreadsheets.

One such analyst, Strategy Analytics, has Apple’s iPad still leading the pack, with Amazon and Samsung quickly narrowing that lead.

So what did Santa bring YOU for Christmas, and better yet, what did Santa YOU give others???

Written by turbotodd

December 27, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Big Commerce In China

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China's Taobao is just one of thousands of Chinese-based e-commerce properties helping propel China into the world's single largest digital marketplace. So far in 2012, Alibaba (Taobao's parent company) has generated over $157 billion U.S. in gross merchandise volume, making it the largest e-commerce property in the world.

China’s Taobao is just one of thousands of Chinese-based e-commerce properties helping propel China into the world’s single largest digital marketplace. So far in 2012, Alibaba (Taobao’s parent company) has generated over $157 billion U.S. in gross merchandise volume, making it the largest e-commerce property in the world.

You read in my last post about last Monday’s “Cyber Monday” tidings according to the IBM Digital Benchmark.

Well, TechCrunch is reporting from comScore data that the holiday shopping juggernaut continues well beyond Cyber Monday.

comScore’s data found that e-commerce spending for the first 30 days of this November-December 2012 holiday season has amounted to a respectable $20.4 billion, a 15 percent increase over the same time period last year.

During the past week alone, comScore reported three individual days surpassing $1 billion in spending, according to the TechCrunch post by Leena Rao, with the peak, of course, coming on Cyber Monday at $1.46 billion.

Of course, all that might seem like chump change when you hold it up against some e-commerce numbers coming out of China, via a post on VentureBeat.

China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba alone has sold an estimated $157 billion U.S. in gross merchandise volume this year, which VentureBeat observes surpasses Amazon and eBay combined.

In fact, Alibaba is believed to have garnered a $3 billion single sales day earlier this year.

But the real story here may be Jack Ma’s “Alipay,” Alibaba’s payments processing unit, which now has over 700 million registered users.

According to a recent report from the folks at eMarketer, China’s antiquated banking system and low usage by consumers of credit cards is benefiting the e-commerce industry there.

Alipay, now China’s largest third-party online payment solution, essentially provides escrow payment services that not only facilitate e-commerce transactions in China, but also reduces risk to consumers, because with Alipay, they have the ability to verify whether or not they are satisfied with their purchases before releasing funds to the seller.

And Alipay isn’t just limited to the Chinese marketplace. It now handles transactions in 12 foreign currencies, including in U.S. dollars, Japanese yen, and the euro.

According to the eMarketer report, Alibaba is also upgrading its COD payment infrastructure, investing some $79 million U.S. in a portable device that Alibaba says will consolidate logistics records with credit/debit card payment information in a single terminal.

It’s Alipay’s intent to install thousands such devices across China’s first- and second-tier cities (think Beijing, Shanghai, etc.) by the end of this year, which will help with China’s broader goals of fomenting increased internal consumer consumption.

Of course, if you’re News Corporation, and you’re in the iPad publishing business, no amount of Chinese e-commerce facilitatin’ payment devices are going to help a fledgling business model.

Earlier today, News Corp. finally bifurcated its publishing and entertainment businesses, and seemingly as a minor sidebar, also conceded defeat of its The Daily iPad app effective December 15.

The Daily had been News Corp’s digital pride and joy, a valiant attempt at delivering a daily news publication via the iPad only 100,000 people wanted.

At 99 cents a week, that apparently was not revenue enough even close to maintaining a viable business, so The Daily will now be put to bed.

Ever-reliable media critic website Poynter noted The Daily had two key lessons of failure from which we could all learn.  One, they had no clarity on its intended audience (I thought that was supposed to be iPad users!), and two, one platform, the iPad, just wasn’t enough in a multi-device world.

Perhaps they should have instigated a Chinese edition? Surely they could have drummed up a few more hundred thousand from a population of 1.3 billion!

Written by turbotodd

December 3, 2012 at 11:34 pm

(Not) Home For The Holidays

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I’m pretty happy I don’t have to travel today.  I’m going to wait until tomorrow, when all the turkeys have gotten off the road.

Of course, watch out for Wal-Mart and other big retail parking lots.  The consternation about having to work on Thanksgiving is pervasive, and I wouldn’t want to see any customers attempt to play Frogger in those big parking lots.  It’s dangerous enough just trying to get through the doors and into the store!

As always, my wise counsel is to shop from the comfort of your couch.

Walt Mossberg, the ever-dependable tech journalist with The Wall Street Journal, has written an article about “Making Sense of All the New Laptop Flavors.”

He goes on about the various flavors of Windows 8 PCs and tablets, before concluding that the “least costly Mac laptop” is the 11-inch MacBook Air, for $999.

I bought one just about a year ago, and I maintain it’s still the best, fastest, lightest, most dependable computer I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned plenty.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have splurged for more SSD, but that’s it.

If you want to make sure your personal shopping engine is fully revved before Black Friday, Gizmodo’s providing its Ultimate Black Friday guide for geeks, grouping deals by category, and offering a list of when every retailer is slated to be open on Black Friday, just in case you prefer shopping in a mosh pit.

As for an update on my new Apple Mini-me “mini,” otherwise known as the 5th generation iPod touch, I can only say I have no buyer’s remorse, even now after having seen the iPad mini in the flesh.

The retina screen and the small form factor on the newest touch are working perfectly for me thus far. I bought a new “Need for Speed” racing game just to be able to check out the graphics in full force, and the retina screen is simply stunning (as are movies and Netflix streams). I’ve always read what a great gaming platform the touch is, but playing that racing game has cemented it.

Over the next several days, if you want to keep pace with IBM’s annual holiday campaign “Digital Analytics” benchmark, just follow IBM’s e-shopping analytics guru, @jay_henderson (a fellow Texan!).

Jay and his team will be working and posting reports throughout the weekend and into next week to keep us all informed how the holiday e-retail season is going. Jay’s already indicated we can expect to see growing numbers on the mobile and tablet shopping footprint this year.  You can read Jay’s holiday set up piece here.

That said, don’t ignore those retail emails piling up in your in-box — email continues to be the e-retail Trojan Horse, with lots of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals already being distributed. From Amazon to Golfsmith, I’ve received a number of holiday email deals, and it’s all I can do to keep my credit card filed away in my anti-scanning wallet!

If you’re looking for gainful employment this pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday, you might want to try somewhere other than LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s Website had a “service unavailable” message this morning, and TechCrunch has been reporting a LinkedIn site outage.

As for me, I’ll be (mostly) disappearing from the cyber maze over the course of the next week. It’s my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, and I’m taking them on a cruise in the Caribbean to celebrate. I may send a post or two via email if I’m so inspired, but mostly I’ll be spending some quality time with my parents and some extended family, and gazing out at the Gulf of Mexico in a pina colada-induced haze (virgin pina coladas, of course).

For all of my readers here in the United States, I wish you a very happy and restful holiday weekend. For those of you outside the U.S., enjoy the email and conference call silence from your U.S. colleagues…it won’t last long!

Showrooming With Santa

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ON the topic of Smarter Commerce, I’ve seen two stories today….count ‘em, TWO…about the intent for numerous retailers promising to match online retail prices at brick-n-mortar stores during the coming holiday season.

Found that Tickle Me Elmo for ten whole cents cheaper at Amazon???…just step right on up the Target cash register, because the Price is Right!

One of the stories was in The Wall Street Journal, and claimed that over the past few days, Best Buy and Target both had said they would match the prices offered by the online sites of some rivals, including Wal-Mart and Amazon.

This in an effort to combat “showrooming” (bet you didn’t even know there was such a word!), whereby shoppers checking products in stores then buy them on competitor’s websites, presumably for lower prices.

But, as the story goes on to observe, there soon could be trouble at the register, as these new policies require shoppers to both ask for and PROVE the existence of lowered prices.

“Mommy, Mommy, I just found the latest Furby on Amazon.com for a whole fifty cents less!”

Now, excuse Mommy while she fumbles around in her purse for her smartphone!  Oh, never mind that line of people waiting around the store to pay full price for their Furbys!

You get the picture.

According to the Journal story, Best Buy’s going to go them one better, and provide their sales reps some discretion — if the SKU’s price is too low, you don’t get to go!…out the store with your Furby, that is.

All the more reason, I say, to stay in this holiday season, tablet or laptop in hand, with a nice warm cup of Egg Nog, and do ALL your holiday shopping from the comfort of your own home!

Written by turbotodd

October 18, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Live @ IBM InterConnect 2012: A Q&A With IBM’s Alisa Maclin On The IBM Marketing Center

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lisa Maclin is Vice President of Marketing for IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative. IBM’s Smarter Commerce portfolio consists of software solutions, including over $2.5B in recent acquisitions, as well as consulting and implementation services and workload optimized systems.

Alisa Maclin is Vice President of Marketing for IBM’s Smarter Commerce Initiative. Smarter Commerce is a unique approach designed to help companies better integrate and more effectively manage their value chain — including buy, market, sell, and service processes — to put the customer at the center of decisions and actions.

IBM’s Smarter Commerce portfolio consists of software solutions, including over $2.5B in recent acquisitions, as well as consulting and implementation services and workload optimized systems.

Previously, Ms. Maclin was Vice President of Market Strategy and Planning for IBM Global Business Services, with responsibility for developing and executing marketing strategy for IBM’s consulting and application management business worldwide.

Ms. Maclin has more than 20 years of global marketing and sales leadership experience at IBM, including executive roles in IBM’s Software, Global Services, and Sales and Distribution divisions.

We sat down with Ms. Maclin recently at the IBM InterConnect event in Singapore to better understand the evolution of the Smarter Commerce story over the past few months, including the announcement of the new IBM Marketing Center, which has been described as a “multipurpose cloud-based suite aimed at organizations that want to take advantage of the Smarter Commerce capabilities without having to invest in their own IT infrastructure.”

We discussed this, and much more, during our few minutes together in Singapore.

IBM’s New Global Cloud Initiative: Delivering Simpler IT

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IBM has made a series of important cloud computing announcements this year, including advancements to the IBM SmartCloud portfolio, through which IBM now manages 1+ million enterprise application users, and over $100 billion commerce transactions per year. In today’s announcement, IBM is broadening its cloud reach by extending its solutions and services on IBM SmartCloud and PureSystems to Managed Service Providers (MSPs).

Some big cloud news has just hovered over the IBM horizon.

Big!  As in big, fluffy, floating cotton cumulus kinda clouds.

Only, we’re talking about the IT kind of cloud, not the real clouds.

Today, IBM announced a broad set of global initiatives to better position clients to take advantage of cloud opportunities.

Aimed at further expanding IBM’s cloud ecosystem, this effort is intended to enable organizations to develop solutions and services on IBM SmartCloud and PureSystems, built on open standards.

Managed Service Providers: Making The Cloud Real For Clients

As more clients embrace cloud computing, they are looking to local technology providers known as Managed Service Providers (MSP) to help them quickly develop cloud based services in a more simplistic, secure and economical way.

Managed service providers deliver a defined set of technology solutions or services to clients with a pay-as-you-go model. MSPs are largely leveraged by customers which want to take advantage of cloud technologies but lack the internal IT skills, resources and time.

As part of today’s news, IBM is taking its collaboration with MSPs and its global ecosystem one step further by enabling them to build innovative solutions and services on IBM’s advanced technologies such as SmartCloud, PureSystems, and analytics.

IBM will also provide MSPs access to IBM experts with deep technical skills at four new global centers of excellence; and offer an unmatched set of programs to support  MSP marketing efforts to help them build their brands, generate demand for their services, and grow their marketing skills.

Additionally, IBM will offer affordable financing options through IBM Global Financing to help MSPs acquire new technologies.

Here are some of the highlights from today’s announcement:

  • Access to  Global Centers of Excellence: IBM is launching new Global Centers of Excellence in Shanghai; Tokyo; Ehningen, Germany; and New York City to provide MSPs with access to IBM’s deep technical expertise to develop innovative cloud services and solutions on IBM’s open stack to address industry-specific client needs. This will enable MSPs to get hands-on technical expertise in building skills on technologies such as IBM SmartCloud, PureSystems, storage, security and collaboration. MSPs will also have access to IBM’s 40 IBM Innovation Centers in 33 countries for joint client engagements. In addition, IBM will launch a virtual briefing center that will provide an ongoing forum for MSPs to share ideas and knowledge around industry challenges clients are facing today. This community will enable ongoing engagement of MSPs as well as IBM experts to share best practices.
  • Dedicated Marketing and Sales Support: IBM will now offer an unmatched set of marketing and sales support initiatives tailored to MSPs. These initiatives are designed to help MSPs grow their businesses, build their brands and create demand for their capabilities. The new program will provide MSPs with solutions for building a complete marketing plan and a four-part education effort on how to effectively use social media to grow their businesses and better target their clients. Additionally, MSPs will gain access to IBM analytics capabilities to help them identify new customers and capture additional opportunities with their existing customers. As part of the program, MSPs will also receive dedicated support from IBM to guide them through the program and take advantage of the resources made available. A significant part of the $100 million IBM has invested annually in marketing efforts for its global ecosystem will now be made available to MSPs and their marketing efforts.
  • Seizing the Opportunity with PureSystems: PureSystems will provide a new, integrated, by-design platform for MSPs to tune hardware and software resources for data intensive workloads. The integration of the PureSystems platform, coupled with the patterns of expertise technology and the flexibility to configure an application for either an on-premise or hosted environment, makes the PureSystems platform a natural choice for MSPs.
  • Building on the Advanced Capabilities of IBM SmartCloud: MSPs can take advantage of IBM’s SmartCloud, including an option to integrate the offering as an IBM-backed solution or under their own brand in the market built on IBM SmartCloud Enterprise to expand the services they offer. IBM will also work with new MSPs to design and develop their data center strategies, leveraging IBM’s years of experience in data center best practices.
  • Financing Options through IBM Global Financing (IGF): MSPs can acquire new technology solutions and services to support their growth with flexible, affordable payment plans for IBM systems, software and services — including 12-month, 0% loans for IBM Systems, Storage and Software. A payment plan from IGF can provide MSPs with low monthly payment options while avoiding large, up-front cash payments, the ability to upgrade their systems mid-lease and improve IT asset management. MSPs that select PureSystems platforms may defer their first payment for 90 days.

Expanding the IBM Cloud Ecosystem, Addressing Cloud Security Concerns

Members of IBM’s ecosystem, which includes independent software vendors, systems integrators, value-added resellers, and MSPs are collaborating with IBM to take advantage of IBM’s higher value capabilities such as SmartCloud, PureSystems and analytics to build industry specific cloud services.

To date, IBM has built relationships with more than 1,400 MSPs, such as Perimeter, Symmetry, Velocity, CenterBeam, Oxford Networks, PEER 1 Hosting, Connectria, and others. These MSPs are focused on delivering industry specific capabilities such as helping a small healthcare provider manage digital records on the cloud securely, or helping a midsize bank enable their clients to securely conduct more and more of their daily transactions via smartphones.

Additionally, IBM Business Partner Perimeter E-Security, based in Milford, CT, is collaborating with IBM to address the increasing cost, complexity, and stringent compliance requirements associated with securing communications and infrastructure in information intensive businesses such as banking, healthcare, and government.

Solving today’s regulatory and security challenges has and continues to become more and more cost prohibitive. While smaller financial institutions face the same regulatory pressure and data security threats, they lack the resources larger banks have to secure their institution.

Cloud technology is now making it possible for smaller banks to address these issues cost effectively. This collaboration complements Perimeter’s capabilities with advanced technologies such as IBM SmartCloud, storage, and security capabilities, as well as expanding the MSP’s global presence in growth markets such as Africa.

The new offerings, which range from developing skills to gaining access to IBM’s R&D and Innovation Centers, are another proof point of IBM’s focus on providing the right capabilities and expertise to help MSPs fulfill the evolving needs of today’s clients and, in turn, help MSPs grow their own business.

Today’s news builds on IBM’s recently announced sponsorship of the new OpenStack Foundation, an independent entity, to promote the project and open source cloud computing. OpenStack will enhance IBM’s SmartCloud Foundation offerings, drive deeper industry collaboration and accelerate momentum for critical industry standards while also making it easier for MSPs to consume IBM’s offerings through the Cloud.

You can learn more about IBM cloud computing initiatives here, and follow Managed Service Provider communications from IBM on Twitter using the hashtag #ibmmsp.

Live From IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit: The Magic Of This Kingdom

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When I arrived in Orlando yesterday for the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit, which kicked off here earlier this morning, I started having flashbacks.

No, not those kind of flashbacks, the hallucinatory kind!

No, these were childhood flashbacks. To when I must have been 6 or 7, and I experienced my first firsthand brand impressions of Disneyworld.

My mom and dad were some patient people, carrying my sister and I all the way to one end of the country from Texas to experience all the magic that Walt Disney had imagined.

And magic it was.

I don’t remember much in detail, but in emotional impression, I remembered a lot. I remembered cruising along on “It’s a Small World” ride, when, in fact, the world still seemed quite big and grandiose to me.

I also remember the haunted house ride, the one where the ghost sits next to you, even if for a brief spell.  I was frickin’ mortified, terrified…and exhilirated, all at the same time.

And Space Mountain…well, don’t get me started. I might as well have been on another planet.

I haven’t even gotten to seeing the Disney characters come to life walking around the Animal Kingdom, or Snow White in that beautiful castle.

Mind you, these experiences transpired roughly forty years ago (I’m trying not to be TOO precise), and yet the fondness and remembrance they created for me were…well, simply magic.

I’m sure that’s not why we bring all our customers here to Orlando, to experience Disney’s magic.  I’m sure we’ve gotten some good economies of scale for holding our events here, and certainly we (and our own customers) get great service while staying at the Disney properties.

Then again, that kind of IS the point.

As we come together to discuss the opportunities and challenges for Smarter Commerce over the next few days, we’d be wise to remember that not everything that creates business magic is something you can sell or even mimic.

The integrity and honesty of a real and positive brand experience should have and be just that, integral and honest.

If your company genuinely desires to create a positive and integral experience, then it will be so.

But to try and put it on and wear it as an after-the–fact costume…well, Mickey Mouse will have never been outed so fast!

When IBM launched its Smarter Commerce initiative last year, we tried to make sure we were wearing an appropriate costume. IBM has invested some $3 billion in acquisitions in this space, and created an IBM Global Business Services team of 1,000 focusing exclusively on Smarter Commerce.

Our Websphere Commerce technology, which was already a leading, organic product in the marketplace, was evolved, with both client and general market feedback, to expand and cover the entire B2B2C commerce lifecycle end to end.

But probably most importantly, and not unlike Walt Disney, we recognized that our own customers’ customers were going to be the ultimate measure of our success.

We live in an amazing age of the empowered customer, one who has unlimited to access to information and who can instantly share his or her experience with the entire planet…and does!

Because technology has empowered those customers with greater access to transparency to information and raised their own expectations for relevant communications, superior price, delivery, and service, so, too, must our customers raise their game, and we at IBM, our own.

Hence the discussions you’ll be tuning into and participating in over these next three days.

Soak it up. Take notes. Talk to everybody you can. Don’t waste a moment. Some of the best minds within IBM, and the broader industry, are here just for all of you to help you on your journey.

As for me, I’ll be here, and on the Solutions Center floor interviewing some of those great minds for our YouTube channel. 

And if I can, I’m going to try and break away just for a few moments so I can go say hi, and make peace, with some old ghost friends of mine.

I have a distinct feeling Walt Disney wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Shopping In The Great White North

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IBM recently announced a big win in its “smarter commerce” initiative. SHOP.CA, Canada’s largest online e-commerce marketplace, is using analytics software from IBM’s smarter commerce initiative to help engage increasingly empowered online consumers in a unique shopping experience, and build loyalty and sense of community.

A recent IBM survey of more than 2,000 Canadians showed friends and family are by far the most trusted influencers on purchasing decisions, but retailers are also gaining trust among shoppers here.

The same research also identified a growing movement among consumers to use social media to build communities with others who share their interests and tastes, and who consume the same. These strangers then help the consumer make more relevant discoveries and satisfying purchases.

SHOP.CA: One Stop Online Shopping

SHOP.CA’s online marketplace features millions of products across 26 categories and billions in multi-merchant inventory. Its website offers Canadians one-stop access to national and international brands, free shipping, free returns and no cross-border fees.

Also hosting a powerful loyalty program, SHOP.CA Rewards Dollars are offered for both purchases and online activities that generate a purchase, such as sharing a link to a favorite product with a friend, or posting written or video reviews to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

“With SHOP.CA, shopping will be forever changed in Canada,” says Don Tapscott, author and world leading business strategist. “It’s going to make shopping ‘social.’ People will become deeply engaged in the community. They’ll learn from each other. They’ll be able to collaborate, and because of the loyalty programs, they’re going to want to come back.”

SHOP.CA selected IBM’s technology as the e-commerce engine to power its consumer storefront, multi-merchant product catalog and SHOP.CA rewards program. IBM will also provide analytics on how site visitors behave and interact, as well as track their searching and buying histories. This data will get SHOP.CA insight on how, when and where to reach shoppers with content and offers personalized to their taste and preferences via mobile or social vehicles.

Smarter Commerce: A $20 Billion Software Market

Estimated at $20 billion for software alone, IBM has defined smarter commerce, a new, unfolding market driven by Web, social and mobile technologies which put more power in the hands of customers.

Today, 70 percent of the consumer’s first interaction with a product or service takes place online, and 64 percent of consumers make a first purchase because of a digital experience. Under the terms of the agreement, IBM is providing SHOP.CA with Coremetrics web analytics delivered through the cloud and IBM WebSphere Commerce Professional.

Go here to learn more about IBM “smarter commerce” solutions.

In the video below, Scott Laningham and I interview Don Tapscott at this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival about how digital technology is changing our world, detailing for us mere mortals its impact on business, education, children, and beyond.

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