ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 11 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced new software that delivers a personalized and more interactive shopping experience for the exploding population of mobile users worldwide. The software incorporates new social networking capabilities and the ability for retailers to reach consumers with personalized promotions, coupons and other content, regardless of how or where the customer chooses to shop with them.
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Advancements in mobile devices are reshaping the way customers interact with brands, expanding beyond mere information exchange to true online commerce. Increasingly, the beneficiaries of this growth are online retailers. According to independent research firm, Forrester Research, Inc., consumer retail sales from websites is projected to reach $211.7 billion by 2012 in the United States alone, up from $125.1 billion in 2007.*
The new software underscores IBM's commitment to the mobile space. In June, the company announced a five-year, $100 million research initiative aimed at improving mobile services and capabilities for businesses and consumers worldwide.
Automating the Mobile Shopping Experience
To meet this demand, IBM is introducing WebSphere Commerce 7, a new release of its industry-leading e-commerce software that enhances the shopping experience for mobile consumers. The new IBM Mobile Store solution improves the shopping experience from start to finish, enabling customers to more easily browse an online store, conduct side-by-side product comparisons, then view store locations, check inventory availability and complete the purchase.
Shoppers can even place orders online and pick up their merchandise at the closest store -- which can be automatically mapped out for them on their mobile phone. With the new IBM technology, retailers can also instantly deliver timely, relevant and personalized brand information and promotions, based on past purchases, to a customer's mobile device through text messages or e-mail.
According to IBM's Institute for Business Value, the number of mobile users will grow by 191 percent from 2006 to 2011 to reach approximately one billion users worldwide.** These numbers are being driven by people in both industrialized as well as developing nations. Because broadband access remains difficult in many places, hand-held devices are often the only means of access to the Web.
Li-Ning, China's leading sports brand, has experienced steady growth in online sales since launching its e-commerce site in 2008. With e-commerce largely untapped in China, Li-Ning has become a pioneer by embracing IBM technology, which helps its customers view top-selling merchandise and detailed product information on a homepage they can easily customize.
Li-Ning intends to expand beyond these basic functions to take advantage of IBM's new commerce software, which will allow customers to access its site through cellphones and other hand-held devices. The company plans to more easily connect with their customers so that they can deliver personalized content, promotions and other information. Li-Ning also intends to pursue the newest trend in online commerce -- reaching customers through social networking sites.
"Chinese consumers are just beginning to appreciate the benefits of shopping online," said Shelly Lin, Director of e-Business at Li-Ning Company Limited. "Mobile commerce is the next wave of opportunity for us. Working with IBM WebSphere Commerce, we are intent on pursuing a strategy that helps us connect with shoppers that is advantageous to both us and our customers."
Using Online Social Networks to Help Sell
IBM's new software allows retailers to more effectively leverage the growing influence of online social networks, bringing brand and product discussions back to the retailer's site and converting them into transactions.
For example, with one click a product review or blog post with a link back to the retailer's site can automatically be sent to Facebook or other social networking sites. Online sellers can augment their brand experience further with rich content that includes ratings and reviews and threaded discussions with photo sharing.
Sam Ash, a leading retailer of musical instruments and DJ equipment, is using WebSphere Commerce to drive the customer's online experience, using it as a base to provide customer-provided ratings and reviews. It is finding success combining this feature with performance simulations of products they sell. For example, they created a "virtual cymbal room" where shoppers can test the actual sound of cymbals the company sells.
"By using IBM's WebSphere Commerce, Sam Ash.com has been able to enhance the shopping experience in ways that we never believed were possible," said David Ash, CEO at Sam Ash.com. "We want to provide our online customers with more ways to research and virtually test drive our products online. Our site has proven that it resonates well with shoppers."
The mobile and social commerce aspects are enhanced further through another new IBM capability called Cross-Channel Precision Marketing, which gives retailers the ability to understand customer buying behaviors and respond by delivering targeted promotions or other content instantly. For example, if an online buyer abandons a sale before checkout, a coupon or other incentive could be immediately forwarded to the shopper's mobile device to help revive the transaction. A shopper who is using their mobile phone while at a store to research a product could be similarly targeted, as could someone reviewing a product on the retailer's site. This lets retailers establish an ongoing and dynamic relationship with their customers and tailor responses as the customer's behavior changes over time.
"New sales channels and points of interaction now define and fragment the consumers' retail journey, forcing companies to change the way they market, build relationships and deliver brand value," said Beth Smith, vice president of WebSphere at IBM. "WebSphere Commerce is designed to help retailers around the world execute marketing campaigns and build rich customer relationships that span sales channels and interaction models."
WebSphere Commerce 7 also has enhancements that better address the needs of businesses selling to other businesses online, through a new Web 2.0-based B2B store solution. This features a fast product finder, mini shopping cart, drag and drop shopping capability and the ability to manage multiple saved orders. Traditional B2B sites are cumbersome to use and often require customer service calls to complete sales. As e-commerce becomes an increasingly important sales channel for businesses, the IBM B2B store solution delivers rich B2C-like features to business customers while supporting contracts, advanced procurement options and a more streamlined checkout process.
WebSphere Commerce comes with and leverages the strength of the IBM WebSphere Application Server and DB2 to attain high transaction volumes, reliable, and highly available operation as well as the integration to back-end systems and applications using SOA interfaces. WebSphere Commerce 7 includes new out-of-the-box integrations to social networking offerings such as IBM Lotus Connections, Bazaarvoice and Pluck SiteLife.
Recognized as an industry leader, IBM® WebSphere® Commerce software provides companies of all sizes with a powerful customer interaction platform for cross-channel and online commerce, supporting all of a company's business models while providing a rich, differentiated customer experience. Powerful out-of-the-box capabilities for marketing, catalog management and merchandising help companies revolutionize customer shopping experiences across all sales channels from online and call centers to mobile and in-store. More information is available at www.ibm.com/websphere/commerce.
IBM WebSphere Commerce 7 is immediately available starting at about $30,000 for 100 Processor Value Units (PVUs).
* Forrester Research, "State of Retailing Online 2009: Marketing" by Sucharita Mulpuru, June 5, 2009.
**IBM Institute of Business Value, "Go Mobile, Grow" by Christian Seider, Sean Lafferty and Dr. Sungyoul Lee, 2008.
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SOURCE IBM Corporation