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It all starts with the customer

In business, this has always been true. But now a new breed of customer is dictating a new set of terms in the dynamic between buyers and sellers.

Customers approach a sale empowered by technology and transparency, with more extensive information from more sources than ever before. They expect to engage with companies when and how they want, in person, online and on the go. And they want these methods to tie together seamlessly.

The smarter commerce opportunity
Smarter commerce (PDF, 846KB) recognizes that the sale is just one aspect of the experience. As with traditional commerce, the customer is at the center of all operations. Smarter commerce turns customer insight into action, enabling new business processes that help companies buy, market, sell and service their products and services.

Buy: Chief sourcing and and Procurement Officer Market: Chief Marketing Officer Sell: VP of Commerce, Sales and Operations Service: VP of Customer Loyalty Integrated value chain


Buy: expanding the procurement view

Even with dozens of manufacturing and distribution centers and hundreds of retail, wholesale and Internet resellers, an office equipment manufacturer maintains complete visibility of its inventory and sales channels. Using a rules-based order management system, the company can forecast inventory, manage demand and coordinate distribution and sourcing throughout its partner network. As a result, its customers enjoy an order fulfillment rate of nearly 100 percent.

New approaches to the sourcing, procurement and distribution of goods and materials—from supplier and trading partner platforms to supply chain visibility tools—enable supply chain decision makers to synchronize supply to demand and gain better control over inevitable disruptions.

An IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study, New Rules for a New Decade (PDF, 1.24MB) , surveyed more than 650 procurement and supply chain executives and found that companies are putting a priority on visibility, integration with partners and other capabilities that can enable smarter commerce approaches.

Visionary supply chain and procurement executives look to analytics and partner integration to unveil visibility


Market: personalizing the message

A global financial services firm uses behavioral analytics to give its customers what they want: real-time, personalized promotions through their media of choice. Studying the way customers use the web, email, phone and social networks to research and buy enables the firm to provide instant, targeted offers that yield high response, conversion and revenue rates.

With powerful analytics and coordinated cross-channel marketing, personalized campaigns have become even more precise, and can be delivered through the most effective channels for each customer. Marketers are closer than ever to speaking directly to customers about products and services and delivering the best offer, automatically, with a more complete understanding of how customers interact and respond to their brands.

A 2011 IBV study, From Social Media to Social CRM (PDF, 1.24MB), underscores a perception gap between marketers and their customers and why their customers interact with their brand, specifically through social media. Customers cite tangible value—discounts and purchasing—as the top two social media activities they seek out from their trusted brands. Just feeling connected to or interacting with a brand is not enough for customers.

Companies have some misperceptions regarding why customers interact with them via social sites


Sell: going where the customer is

A retailer has taken its brand wherever a customer might be shopping: on partner websites, social networks, blogs or mobile stores. Whatever the starting point—reading a friend’s product review on Facebook, browsing an affiliate’s site or searching a catalog on their smart phone—the customer sees consistent offers and merchandising.

The study Capitalizing on the Smarter Consumer (US) found that 49 percent of consumers use two or more shopping channels during a single purchase. Smarter commerce opens up customer options, such as checking product availability on the spot, and designating the best shipping location, essentially enabling customers to order anywhere and pick up anywhere.

And it’s not just about selling to consumers. Companies with B2B models can offer account-specific catalogs, contract-based pricing, complex product configuration and powerful order orchestration processes.

49% of respondents were “instrumented consumers”— those who use two or more technologies to shop (such as Internet, mobile technologies and in-store kiosks)


Service: a winning follow-through

A regional telecommunications provider applies predictive modeling and analytics to better serve and retain its customers. Using advanced data models, customers are scored monthly on their propensity to switch providers. This information gives client service managers a chance to contact high-propensity customers proactively and resolve any issues before the customer switches to the competition.

Smarter commerce doesn't end at the sale. A reputation for excellent customer care in the months and years following purchase can be a strong selling point. Executives charged with customer service are using customer insights to predict service needs. From synchronizing product installation and warranty to managing and tracking returns more efficiently, smoother operations mean a better customer experience.

Because, after all, commerce starts with—and exists thanks to—the customer.

Why IBM.  More than 2,000 of the world's leading brands rely on IBM's decades of commerce experience to improve their business insight and execution. With expertise in more than 20 industries, IBM can create customized solutions using your existing technology and investments, helping increase the value you generate for your customers and partners, no matter how fast the rules change in our digital world.