Turbotodd

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

Archive for the ‘social commerce’ Category

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.

Every Kiss Begins With Kay

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Kay Jewelers

IBM and Signet Jewelers Ltd., the largest specialty retail jeweler in the U.S. and U.K., have worked together on a major e-commerce strategy and digital marketing redesign for Signet’s national U.S. store chains, Kay Jewelers and Jared, the Galleria of Jewelry.

This week the retail gurus of the world have been hobnobbing at the Jacob Javitts center in New York City as part of the National Retail Federation’s annual gathering.

So I thought it an appropriate opportunity to highlight a retail partnership between IBM and Signet Jewelers Ltd., the largest specialty retail jeweler in the U.S. and U.K..

IBM and Signet have worked together on a major e-commerce strategy and digital marketing redesign for Signet’s national U.S. store chains, Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry.

Building A Multichannel Strategy 

The initiative has transformed the multichannel experience for Kay and Jared customers and resulted in consistent sales growth, including a year-over-year increase of 49 percent in online sales as reported in the company’s recently announced holiday sales for fiscal 2013.

To advance its existing multichannel retail strategy and supplement its e-commerce and information technology expertise, Signet Jewelers U.S. Division engaged consultants from IBM Global Business Services and its digital consulting and design practice, IBM Interactive.

IBM and Signet U.S. collaborated to develop a unified strategy for delivering a more consistent, branded and personalized customer experience to Kay and Jared customers everywhere they shop — whether in a physical store, online or via mobile.

Key components of the multi-phased strategy include the launch of new transactional mobile sites, which enable customers to shop and purchase Kay and Jared products from their mobile phones, and a redesign of the Kay.com and Jared.com websites, which went live before the busy holiday shopping season.

The new sites combine best practices in optimized navigation and functionality, making it easier for shoppers to find, compare and purchase products online, along with new custom features that deliver a more guided, personalized shopping experience for which the company is known.

For instance, shoppers can now chat live with a customer service representative, compare product details side-by-side to help determine their selection, track recently viewed items and much more.

Mi amigo Paul Papas, IBM’s Smarter Commerce Global Leader for Global Business Services, had this to say about the partnership:

“Much of Signet Jeweler’s success in building Kay and Jared into two of the most trusted retail brands can be attributed to the expertise and superior customer service they deliver to create a world-class shopping experience. In an industry known for being married to tradition, Signet Jewelers is a shining example of how bricks and mortar retailers are redefining the customer experience and embracing digital channels, like mobile and social, as part of their overall strategy to deliver personalized interactions to their customers at every touch point.”

Behind the Redesign 

Initially starting with tactical enhancements to the Kay.com and Jared.com websites in late 2011, Signet U.S. launched complete redesigns of both sites in October 2012.

Signet introduced new mobile sites for each brand with transactional capabilities in mid-November.

The company has also launched a mobile app available on iTunes and the Android Market and introduced catalogs on the Google Catalogs app to tap into the growing population of mobile shoppers.

To elevate Signet’s social media presence, the company worked with IBM to define an engagement strategy, which Signet U.S. has begun implementing by launching a social media presence for Kay and Jared.

Each brand platform is focused on engaging consumers in the spaces that are most relevant to them, like Facebook and Twitter, to develop and sustain relationships, build loyalty and foster brand advocates who shop both in-store and online.

To help define Signet’s e-commerce strategy and roadmap, IBM executed research that included a customer segmentation analysis, voice of the customer surveys and in-store observations.

With deeper insights into customer needs and distinct shopping scenarios, as well as the capabilities required to support them online, Signet U.S. was able to deploy an integrated solution that extends the Kay and Jared in-store shopping experience to the web and mobile platforms.

About Signet Jewelers Ltd

Signet Jewelers is the largest specialty retail jeweler in the US and UK.  Signet’s US division operates more than 1,325 stores in all 50 states primarily under the name brands of Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry.  Signet’s UK division operates more than 500 stores primarily under the name brands of H.Samuel and Ernest Jones.

Go here for more information about IBM Smarter Commerce and here for more information in specific about IBM’s Retail expertise.

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

Business On The Go: New IBM Mobile Computing Capabilities

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I’ve written numerous times over the past oh, I don’t know, few years about the ongoing mobile evolution (revolution?).

(On that front, which, I wanted to circle back and say how happy I have been with my purchase of the new iPad Touch (gen 5), which I bought instead of the new iPad mini. But I think I’ll have to write a whole separate post on that!)

The ubiquity of mobile devices is empowering consumers, businesses and their partners to more seamlessly communicate and build high-quality, meaningful relationships and transactions. IBM recently introduce a spate of capabilities intended to help organizations bolster their mobile enterprise strategies, which you can read in more detail about in the post below.

And it’s important to note, IBM has also been following this story closely, and responding accordingly.

And on Friday, the company unveiled a suite of new software and services that enables global organizations to build a comprehensive mobile computing strategy –- from securing and managing devices, to creating mobile applications and analyzing data.

These new offerings are part of a move by IBM to capitalize on the growing market opportunity for mobile that is expected to drive $130B in revenue for the IT industry by 2015, according to a recent study.

Mobile Becoming Integral To Business

As organizations increasingly view mobile computing as the next platform to conduct business, the market is evolving beyond just the device.

Business leaders including the chief information officers (CIOs) and increasingly chief marketing officers (CMOs) of global organizations such as airlines, retailers, governments and healthcare providers are among the businesses turning to IBM to ensure mobile services and solutions are readily available to constituents and in full compliance with IT strategies.

But, they need solutions that can be applied across any mobile environment and device — whether a laptop, smartphone or tablet — and can provide an underlying IT infrastructure that is always available, secure, effectively manages data, and integrates both front and back-end systems.

According to latest reports, more than 10 billion mobile devices are expected to be in the hands of consumers, doctors, sales leaders and the like by 2020.

Already, 90 percent of mobile users keep their device within arm’s reach at all times (guilty as charged!), and complete many kinds of transactions across these smart devices

New Mobile Software and Services Fuel Growth 

While the opportunities presented by mobile are significant, there are a number of challenges facing clients when adopting mobile computing.

This includes the management and security of devices and their underlying infrastructures, ensuring a quality mobile application experience for users across operating systems, new devices entering the market almost monthly, integrating data with the cloud, and analyzing insights captured in real-time.

IBM offers clients a variety of offerings to quickly adopt mobile technologies throughout the organization, from consulting services to software solutions and industry expertise, organic R&D to key acquisitions.

As global organizations struggle to keep pace with the opportunities that mobile computing can provide, IBM’s new suite of capabilities will enable them to overcome these obstacles.

Mobile technologies have significant potential to fundamentally change how businesses operate, and should be part of any multi-channel marketing transformation that helps CMOs make more informed business decisions based on this important shift in consumer behavior.

They include the following:

  • Mobile Planning and Strategy Services: Working with IBM consultants, clients can identify gaps and properly plan for the right mobile strategy.
  • Mobile Analytics: Through analytics capabilities, chief marketing officers (CMOs), e-commerce and app developers can gain real-time access and deep intelligence into customers’ online and app experience across mobile devices.
  • Endpoint Security and Management: With new software and managed mobility services, clients can embrace the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend by simplifying the processes to secure devices and empower employees to manage their own devices. These capabilities extend to the management and support of Apple (including iOS 6), Android, Microsoft Windows operating system (including Windows 8) and Blackberry devices.
  • Mobile App Development: Using the IBM Mobile Foundation will help clients better support native app development and make it easier to build apps that function in the absence of a network connection. New Lifecycle Management software will help clients quickly develop high quality apps across multiple platforms. New managed service capabilities will also provide organizations with support for deploying, implementing and managing their mobile apps and app stores.
  • Social Collaboration for Mobile: With new social business enhancements, an organization’s mobile workforce can use their mobile devices to blog, get live updates from their social networks, access and edit files. New remote data wipe capabilities also help protect company data in case a device is lost or stolen.

IBM has been steadily investing in the mobile space for more than a decade, both organically and through acquisitions, offering a complete portfolio of software and services that delivers enterprise-ready mobility for clients — from IT systems all the way through to mobile devices. This builds on IBM’s deep understanding of its clients and their evolving IT needs.

You can go here to learn more about IBM Mobile Enterprise capabilities.

Live @ IBM InterConnect 2012: Marie Wieck On Business In Motion

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Marie Wieck is general manager of IBM’s Application & Integration Middleware (AIM) business unit, where she leads an organization of more than 7,500 software development, marketing, services, and sales professionals. She is responsible for IBM’s WebSphere software portfolio and other strategic middleware products, including Web application servers, transaction and messaging systems, integration, and business process management solutions.

Marie Wieck is the general manager of IBM’s Application and Integration Middleware organization (home of IBM’s distinguished market-leading WebSphere brand), and has held a variety of technical and executive roles across our software, services, and finance groups.

In her current role, Marie leads an organization of more than 7,500 software development, marketing, sales, and services professionals. There, she is responsible for IBM’s WebSphere software portfolio and other strategic middleware products, including Web application servers, transaction and messaging systems, integration, and business process management solutions.

During our sitdown at IBM InterConnect, Marie shared some of the proceedings from her two “Hot Topic” sessions in Singapore, one on the Mobile Enterprise, and the other on Business Process management.

Marie also expanded on IBM’s emerging “mobile enterprise” strategy, explaining that rather than see mobile as another blip on the technology evolutionary radar screen, that rather it’s an opportunity to be transformative across the enterprise.

From fomenting front-line employee’s opportunity to be more collaborative in the field, to enabling back-office overlords to use their smartphones to watch over and manage business process management processes, IBM is working to bridge systems of record and of data together with employees and external constituents in a much more transformative story than has been communicated to date.

It’s an exciting narrative, and as Marie conveyed in the interview, mobile is touching the entire IBM portfolio.

Singapore Redux

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I mentioned in an earlier post I would share a little information about Singapore.  Much of this, I crowdsourced liberally from the Wikipedia entry on Singapore, along with some of my own observations thrown in for good measure.

First, the city-state is formally referred to as the “Republic of Singapore.” If you’ve ever flown here from the U.S., you know that it’s one of the longer plane rides one can take.

I left Austin around 8 am last Friday morning, catching connecting flights in Atlanta and then Tokyo’s Narita, with both flights lasting around close to 24 hours flight time, and arriving here early Sunday morning (around 1:30 AM).

Singapore is an island country consisting of 63 islands, and separated from Malaysia by the Straigts of Johor to the north and from Indonesia’s Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to its south.

The British founded modern Singapore when it obtained sovereignty over the island in 1824, and was later occupied by the Japanese in World War II. It later declared independence, uniting with other British territories to form Malaysia in 1963, then separated from Malaysia two years later.

It is known as one of the “Four Asian Tigers,” and is the world’s fourth leading financial center, with its ports being among one of the five busiest in the world.

Its economy depends heavily on exports and refining imported goods, and has the third highest per capita income in the world with slightly over 5 million citizens.

Its population is very diverse, and has four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, and is one of the five founding members of the Association of South East Asian Nations.

It’s manufacturing base includes electronics, petroleum refining, chemicals, mechanical engineering, and biomedical sciences. It also produces about 10% of the world’s foundry wafer output, making it an integral part of the globe’s semiconductor industry supply chain.

It also has majored heavily in tourism (including so-called “medical tourism”), and to attract more tourists it legalized gambling in 2005 (The IBM InterConnect conference is being held at Royal Sentosa Resorts, which has one of those casinos).

This is my second visit to Singapore (my first being in early 2010), and my impressions on both visits have been quite favorable. For a Westerner who doesn’t know Chinese, Malay or Tamil, it’s quite easy for an English speaker to find their way around.

The city-state itself reminds me of Dallas or Houston, what with its shiny, chrome and beige skyscrapers and ports surrounding parts of the island.

But it’s also very futuristic and forward-thinking, having invested early on in commercialization of the Internet and hosting a robust mobile computing infrastructure. Singapore is one of the most ubiquitous Internet penetrated of nations in the world, with over 77 percent of its citizens having online access.

And the “Intelligent Nation 15″ ten-year blueprint I mentioned earlier has refined that digital capability, and in fact, the country has emerged as a vital foundry for Internet-based companies.

By way of example, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin relocated here in 2009, announcing plans to invest in “companies with strong interests in the Asian markets.”

Singapore’s National Research Foundation selected eight new incubators for its Technology Incubation Scheme earlier this year, and through that program, the NRF will co-fund up to 85 percent of total investment in each company (up to U.S. $400K).

And talk about a mobile-friendly country. I only needed walk through either Singapore’s Chinatown or “Little India” yesterday afternoon to find mobile phones from around the globe available to me (and settled on an old-school Nokia 1280 to serve as my new GSM “world phone”).

I paid $20 to a local mobile retailer catering to the Indian market, and within minutes (along with the purchase of an $18 SIM card) was up and running.

For the casual visitor, though the city itself can seem expensive compared to other industrialized countries, deals abound, including for food (the cuisine here runs the gamut, from Chinese to Malay to Japanese to India to American, etc.), and that most national of Singaporean pasttimes, shopping.

If you’re a night owl, you’ll certainly find plenty to do here, what between the casinos, the food, and yes, even the nightlife.

As for me, the rest of this week I’ll mostly be stuck in front of the camera or my laptop covering IBM InterConnect here on Sentosa Island, but I hope and expect to sneak in a few noodles or pieces of dim sum along the way.

IBM InterConnect begins first thing tomorrow, so don’t forget to tune in to our Livestream channel and to Twitter hashtag #ibminterconnect so you can keep up with all the emerging announcements and news from IBM in this important and digitally vital part of the world!

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