Tuesday, March 29, 2011

IBM Launches Consulting Services and Software to Help Businesses Adapt to Rising Customer Demands

IBM (NYSE:IBM) announced a new initiative with the creation of a Smarter Commerce consulting practice, sales and marketing resources, and new software dedicated to helping companies swiftly adapt to rising customer demands in the era of mobile and social networks.

The Smarter Commerce consulting organisation will help businesses reinvent their customer relationships and transform all the core business processes required to address a digitally transformed marketplace.

It will deliver new services and software that will automate marketing, selling and fulfilment, allowing clients to quickly respond to key market shifts through sophisticated analytics that predict buying trends and automatically adjust marketing, sales and supply chains on the fly.

Led by the expertise of 1 200 IBM consultants, the new practice will pursue a $70 billion market. The practice naturally extends IBM's existing experience and capabilities in business analytics, industry depth, supply chain, commerce, enterprise marketing management and business-to-business integration services, as well as the leading WebSphere Commerce platform and a $2.5 billion investment in on-premise and cloud-based software from IBM's acquisitions of Sterling Commerce, Unica and Coremetrics.

IBM will also deliver the skills training necessary to equip businesses with a new range of capabilities through a Smarter Commerce University.

The practice will capitalise on billions of dollars of investment in foundational software assets and capabilities across the business value chain, and integrate Smarter Commerce services and solutions across every important stage of the process of commerce from procurement, development, distribution, sales, marketing, through customer engagement and service.

Just as the Internet changed the economics of global business models, a new shift is occurring as the social networking and mobile phenomena are putting more power into the hands of consumers. Today, 70% of a consumers' first interaction with a product or service takes place online, 64% of consumers make a first purchase because of a digital experience, and of the 2 billion people connected to the Internet, more than 600 million are on Facebook.

These disruptive forces are empowering consumers and raising their expectations of the entire customer experience. This power shift from the seller to the buyer is redefining the term "commerce". Retailers were the first to face the rising power of consumers but now companies in a wide array of industries such as manufacturing, telecommunications, financial services and others have begun adapting to these changes.

IBM is working with companies across many industries, including retail, telecommunications and healthcare, including Danone, Kimberly-Clark, Mckesson Medical, Mousejaw Mountaineering, Staples, US Lumber, XO Communications and 1-800-FLOWERS (customer approvals TBD) to ensure they are marketing to the right audience at the right time; engaging buyers seamlessly in all the right channels and mediums; maintaining inventory levels that meet, but do not exceed, demand; and automate their interconnected supply chains for maximum efficiency.

Through the new Smarter Commerce initiative, IBM is taking a leadership role in helping organisations deal with the collision of market forces that reflects their new reality through new software and services that will allow clients to respond to key market shifts in real-time, automate marketing, selling and fulfilment, while creating a global brand experience.

The new services and software includes:

  • A Global Business Services consulting practice, with more than 1 200 experts offering deep insights into Smarter Commerce.
  • New cloud analytics, including IBM Coremetrics software, to evaluate a company's brand reputation on Facebook and Twitter.
  • IBM will also deliver customised software, automating a company's Web presence consistently across all sales and marketing channels.
  • An "IBM University" will provide educational resources for sellers and partners to build the job skills required of the Smarter Commerce marketplace.
  • IBM will align hundreds of sales professionals to Smarter Commerce, to go after this emerging market.
  • IBM will launch an aggressive marketing campaign, as well as launch a global city road tour across the US and Tokyo.

With 110 million tweets per day, mobile purchases tripling annually to $119 billion this year and 64% of consumer purchases starting with information technology, the Web has shifted control from the seller to the buyer in most commercial transactions.
Billions of empowered consumers expect to buy and interact with businesses in entirely new ways using online, mobile, social and a range of technology tools that have changed the equation. The sellers, or businesses, are largely unprepared for these changes. As a result, there are massive inefficiencies in the complex network of transactions that make up global commerce and its supply chain, at a time when economic and competitive pressures reduce enterprise margins for error to zero.

A recent IBM Institute for Business Value survey of more than 500 economists worldwide estimated that much of the $15 trillion in system inefficiencies on the planet comes from waste in commerce systems, such as inventory backlogs, failed product launches, wasted materials and ineffective marketing campaigns.

“Faced with customers that are more connected - but not necessarily more connected to the people making and selling products and services - businesses require a new set of capabilities that start with the ability to hear the global conversations taking place about their products and brands," said Paul Papas, global Smarter Commerce practice leader in IBM Global Business Services. "This new level of insight has to be followed by an entirely different kind of engagement with these customers, including a tighter and highly responsive network of suppliers and partners."

“It's a buyer's world now,” said an IBM spokesperson. "Faced with more connected and empowered customers, businesses require a tighter and highly responsive network of suppliers and partners to ensure they deliver the right product or service at the right price, time and place,” said Craig Hayman, general manager, Industry Solutions, IBM Software. The key to business success in this unfolding environment is predicting trends and automating market responses in advance to eliminate the gaps between buy and sell, supply and demand.”

Global food products manufacturer Danone, makers of Dannon Yogurt and Evian Water among other brands, is working with IBM to provide a secure cloud trading network for its customers and business partners. "The network is designed to increase the flexibility and responsiveness of our business-to-business commercial interactions and improve our overall customer experience," said Hans Vollebregt, integration team manager, Danone Integration Lab.

“Being competitive today means being a lot smarter about all facets of commerce, from initial marketing efforts to customer interaction in the buying and selling phase, to the product delivery and subsequent service that ensure customer satisfaction,” said Steve Bozzo, CIO of 1-800-Flowers. “We optimised our entire order life cycle and improved the customer experience, with a comprehensive solution from IBM that manages incoming orders from multiple channels like the Web and call centres in a timely accurate way."

To learn more about IBM's corporate citizenship initiatives, visit: http://www.ibm.com/blogs/citizen-ibm. To learn more about People for a Smarter Planet on Facebook, visit http://www.facebook.com/peopleforasmarterplanet. To learn more about IBM's Centennial, visit http://www.ibm100.com.

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