IBM Makes Smarter Commerce Commitment

Michael Vizard
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B2B E-Commerce Looks More Like B2C Everyday

Technology trends such as personalization and SEO are increasingly part of the B2B e-commerce mix.

IBM wants to help level the playing field between buyers and sellers. Over the past decade, the rise of the Internet has decidedly shifted the balance of information power into the hands of the buyer. For almost any good or service, the buyer can compare and contrast available offerings with a simple click of the mouse, sometimes pitting sellers against each other that don't even know they are competing for a specific piece of business.

IBM today rolled out a Smarter Commerce initiative that seeks to educate businesses about how to use the latest generation of sales, marketing, e-commerce, analytics and transaction processing technologies to compete more effectively. For example, Ken Ramoutar, a product marketer within the IBM Industry Solutions Group, says a business needs to know a lot more about customers visiting its sites in real time if it has any hope of upselling them additional products. That means that in real time the business needs to know information concerning customer preferences and what goods and services they are looking to acquire at the moment they visit the site.

Ramoutar says this Smarter Commerce initiative is the culmination of recent acquisitions of companies such as Unica, Coremetrics and Sterling Commerce and the integration of IBM analytics and transaction processing technologies. The company plans to dedicate over 1,200 consultants to this effort alongside 1,200 sales people. That level of investment, says Ramoutar, is required because too many businesses today are not up-to-date when it comes to the best practices associated with managing the customer experience on the Web. And with the advent of mobile computing, the technology and business challenges these companies face will increase sharply in the months ahead as customers begin to leverage smartphones and tablet PCs to buy everything from a ringtone to a five-ton truck on the Internet.

The real issue, says Ramoutar, is how to take advantage of all these trends and technologies in a way that allows a company to grow profitably. Otherwise, companies can spend huge sums of money on their Web customer experience strategy as part of an even greater emphasis to create a multichannel sales strategy and still come up making less money than they were before. That's why Ramoutar argues that the first thing a business really needs to do is come up with a customer value strategy that allows the company to focus its efforts on its most profitable customers first.

While some retailers such as Amazon have sophisticated approaches to managing customers on the Web, the vast majority are finding that their Internet marketing strategies today are too dependent on hope. The issue, of course, is that in order to change that situation, the business needs to invest in not only acquiring new tools, but more importantly learning how to use them. Obviously, IBM isn't the only way to accomplish that. But business leaders can at least take some comfort in the fact that if IBM is putting so much effort into this, chances are there are thousands of companies out there that are facing the same challenges as your organization.

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