With technology such as smartphones playing a much larger role in e-commerce these days, retailers are starting to think about how to modernize the way they interact with customers.
To help drive that process, IBM today announced at the National Retail Federation conference that it is developing a "virtual" competency center around retail technology. Unlike IBM competency centers in specific technologies such as business intelligence, the IBM competency center for retail will not have any specific location.
Instead, Shannon Miller, the strategy and solutions development lead for retail in IBM's Global Services Unit, says IBM's retail competency center will leverage existing IBM competency centers around the globe because of the global nature of most major retail operations.
According to Miller, an IBM survey of more than 32,000 consumer found that 79 percent of them want to use Web sites and print coupons, 75 percent wanted to use smartphones to find store locations, and perhaps most challenging of all for retailers, 66 percent want to see what goods are in stock before going to the store.
Miller says the retail sector as whole is going through a technology renaissance as companies look not only improve the shopping experience and lower costs, but also use technology in smartphones, kiosks and social networks to create customer advocates.
Obviously, those changes create not only technology challenges for retailers, but also cultural ones that Miller expects IBM to help guide retail customers through as they look to engage the next generation of "smarter" customers.