NEW YORK, Jan. 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --National Retail Federation -- As part of its Smarter Commerce initiative, IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced new software that helps customers more easily browse, shop and buy retail products through mobile devices and social networks.
As part of today's news, IBM is highlighting new client engagements with leading retailers to help them capitalize on rapid shifts in today's digital marketplace to better meet customer demands, improve performance and appeal to new digital age consumers.
To be released later today, IBM Smarter Consumer Survey indicates that consumers are looking for more communication with retailers through their preferred media channels and a more personalized shopping experience. Consumers are also increasingly willing to share information with their favorite retailers to educate them on how, when and where to approach them.
With these preferences in mind, IBM is unveiling new software with mobile and social media capabilities. For mobile users, IBM's software for Smarter Commerce now offers native Android and Apple-based applications for e-commerce that take advantage of those operating systems to deliver a richer shopping experience. With these applications, retailers can quickly develop their own storefronts on mobile devices such as the iPad, iPhone or Droid.
The software also offers new capabilities for delivering storefronts on tablets that take advantage of the touch screen and larger real estate space. In addition, new location-based marketing capabilities can enable marketers to target customers based on mobile device location and let prospects know about relevant offers when they are in the vicinity, steering them away from competitors and into their store or branch.
IBM has expanded the solution's support for Facebook to enable companies to deliver relevant marketing offers and campaigns based on a customer's social activity. For example, if a customer "Likes" or "Shares" a product on Facebook, companies can immediately send a promotion code for that specific product. In this way, companies can reward consumers for being brand advocates, which can strengthen that consumer's loyalty to the brand.
Today's news reinforces the impact digital age consumers are having on today's retail sales. Mobile shopping doubled in the past year, according to the IBM Benchmark study for December 2011, a cloud-based analysis of realtime data from more than 500 leading retailers in North America. A recent IBM global study of more than 1,700 chief marketing officers revealed that the majority of the world's top marketing executives recognize a critical and permanent shift occurring in the way they engage with their customers. This shift requires new marketing approaches, tools and skills to effectively reach customers.
IBM is engaged in several projects to help customers such as apparel leader Abercrombie & Fitch, Advance Auto Parts, a leader in the automotive aftermarket; Chilli Beans, a Brazilian sunglasses and accessories retailer; Lucky Brand Jeans, a clothing retailer; and Urban Outfitters, a specialty retailer transform their operations to meet these new market demands.
Leading apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co., and its portfolio of brands, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister Co, abercrombie Kids, and Gilly Hicks, is using Smarter Commerce with the goal of expanding its online business to $1 billion. IBM is helping to provide e-commerce and order management solutions that support Abercrombie's international expansion and cross-channel commerce.
Lucky Brand Jeans is using IBM cloud-based analytics to attract, re-target, retain and convert customers, resulting in improved customer loyalty and increased sales. The retailer, which spoke at NRF this week about Web analytics, is engaging consumers at the right time, with the right information and the right offer, providing a rich online experience that's personalized, timely, and relevant.
Advance Auto Parts is using IBM software to improve service to both its business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) customers. For its B2B customers, Advance Auto Parts now provides faster, more customized service and easier access to inventory data. For its B2C customers, the retailer can now personalize service to reflect buyer preferences, which includes offering them better access to online inventory and enabling customers to buy online and pick up merchandise in a local store.
In addition, Advanced Auto Parts has added a mobile application that enables consumers to search for and locate auto parts from smartphones, as well as select and watch "know how" videos that provide insight on installing parts.
Urban Outfitters, which operates the Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, BHLDN and Terrain brands, recently deployed software for Smarter Commerce to create an enterprise-wide order management platform for its stores, Websites and call centers across all brands. The solution provides the retailer with an enterprise-wide view of inventory to fulfill demand. It provides global inventory visibility and synchronizes channel operations so that Urban Outfitters can enable its customers to research, buy, ship and return anywhere.
With Smarter Commerce, IBM is defining and leading a new market that it estimates will grow to a $20 billion opportunity in software alone by 2015, driven by the demands of rapidly shifting customer buying patterns in the era of mobile and social networks. Smarter Commerce helps retailers achieve brand intimacy by more effectively automating their marketing, sales and fulfillment processes to support a customer-centered approach to commerce.
"Today, consumers trust the opinions of other consumers more than companies, prompting retailers to rethink their operations and embrace Smarter Commerce," said Craig Hayman, General Manager of Industry Solutions at IBM. "Smarter Commerce helps retailers deepen customer relationships and turn prospects into brand advocates. With mobile and social networks, consumers have the power to make or break a brand in an instant. Winning their loyalty in the seconds it takes to search the competition is the new imperative."