Why intelligent commerce is the future of business

By | 6 minute read | April 4, 2022

Close to 60% of CEOs are planning for assumed economic growth, says Gartner. How are you thinking about growth? Are you considering the possibility of extending your business models? In today’s digital world, there are tremendous opportunities to expand your business and take advantage of new growth opportunities, whether it’s through creating a seamless experience between physical and digital experiences, moving to a subscription model or expanding your business to different marketplaces, B2B or B2C.

As you consider these possibilities, it’s imperative to keep in mind that all business is now digital, even when it’s in person. Think about a customer returning an online purchase to a physical retail store or an in-store retail associate ordering an out-of-stock item for a customer. In a world where all business is now digital, the fundamental driver for business growth is the customer experience.

Optimizing commerce through a great customer experience isn’t about turning on new technology or doing business through every possible channel. Instead, it’s about helping customers through their 100’s of micro-decisions across their buyer journey and engaging, delighting and motivating customers to convert. This requires the thoughtful, orchestrated execution of technology across your entire business. We call this intelligent commerce—a human-centric, experience-led, insight-driven approach to designing digital commerce solutions on any cloud to activate new revenue streams, reduce inefficiencies and accelerate time-to-value for your commerce investments.

Then what is dumb commerce? Unless you are really driving experiences across the channels that are most strategic to your business and unless you have the data, insight and the flexibility to expand your ecosystems to accelerate time to value, your commerce experience likely needs to be more intelligent.

Close to 60% of CEOs are focused on expectations of growth as their top objective and priority in 2022 and beyond. – Gartner, 2021

Turning commerce into your growth engine

In the years leading up to the pandemic, many companies moved digital commerce to a back seat of their strategic priorities. Digital commerce was a digital work horse, which was maintained and fixed when broken. It was often marginalized and discussed in basic terms of transactions, platforms and implementations.

While IBM has always approached digital commerce with a strategic lens, recent market disruption has caused our clients to rethink its importance. It’s a pivot to understand that the real promise of digital commerce is growth. Our strategic approach moves digital commerce to a level of intelligence to change the bottom line of the enterprise.

How to orchestrate experiences that drive growth across complex multi-cloud ecosystems

Based on thousands of consulting engagements with clients, IBM industry-leading research and even our own path to transformation, IBM identified three primary growth levers shaping commerce growth:

1. Experience orchestration to tame channel chaos

Orchestrating personalized and consistent experiences is increasingly complex as the number of commerce channels continues to explode. Think of experience orchestration as the fundamental components needed to realize the promise of intelligent commerce. The world is incredibly complicated and continuously changing. This means you need to have all the critical technology in place to ensure your business has the agility and capabilities to continuously deliver great customer experience

For example, to maintain and optimize workforce operations in times of disruption, Frito Lay expanded its e-commerce strategy and created a new solution to streamline frontline employees’ workflows. Frito-Lay is now positioned to fully function in a virtual environment, helping teams keep the same routines, stand-up times and release schedules.

Such best-in-class commerce experiences are enabled by human-centered business design and transformative technologies designed to be strategic for today, tomorrow and the future. Based on experiences with our own clients, enterprises designing and deploying omni-channel experiences can increase sales of up to 30% and realize up to a 300% increase in mobile conversions.

2. Data and insights-driven interactions to personalize engagement

Engaging and activating customers in a personalized commerce experience is a moving target due to several stressors—the economy, privacy rules, healthcare regulations, social changes, environmental concerns, and more. Businesses need a focused, dynamic and responsive set of tools to deliver a consistent exemplary commerce experience​.

With the fundamentals in place to enable experience orchestration, you can now access the critical data and insights needed to personalize customer experiences. You can understand who your customers are, what they like, their history with your brand and their buying patterns. Your strategy should focus on the type of relationship you want to have with your customers and their expectations of your brand.

IBM solutions activate buyers with the personalization and permissions enabled by AI, data and insight-driven interactions. IBM Consultants partner with clients and use insights to make the buying experience transparent through order and inventory intelligence. Our clients that drive personalization and engagement realize a 20-50% increase in customer satisfaction, net promoter score (NPS) and loyalty while doubling order size.

For example, with 90% of Audi UK’s car purchases starting online, IBM Consulting redesigned Audi’s website to reimagine its customers’ digital journey from initial inquiry to ownership. By unifying its mobile and desktop shopping experiences, Audi UK  increased  online sales inquiries by 59% despite an almost 30% industry decline in new UK car sales during the pandemic.

3. Ecosystem evolution to keep pace with technology innovation

Delivering desired commerce experiences is harder than ever as customers continuously adopt new technologies. Flexible, modern architecture enables experience evolution and curation so your business can keep pace with and benefit from new technologies. Growth isn’t just about supercharging what you already have. It’s about breaking new ground, expanding your business model and activating new revenue streams. Accelerators activate growth sooner and at scale.

For example, Swiss luxury watchmaker TAG Heuer built a new guided purchasing experience in a matter of weeks that helped bridge the physical gap due to COVID-19 restrictions and resulted in triple-digit growth.

From strategy and advisory through managed service, delivery and everything in between, IBM Consulting can help you operationalize these three growth levers to deliver the measurable outcomes that are most important to your business.

Does your business need intelligent commerce?

The first step to understanding where you fall on the intelligent commerce spectrum is to identify where there may be gaps in your commerce strategy. If you answer ‘no’ to any of the following questions, your commerce experience needs to be more intelligent.

  • Are you adopting technology and providing the orchestration necessary to take advantage of the explosion of commerce channels?
    Delivering desired commerce experiences is harder than ever as the rate of technology innovation accelerates exponentially. Customer experience expectations continue to increase as they adopt new technologies and new channels, which makes orchestrating personalized, consistent experiences increasingly complex.
  • Are you taking advantage of data, insights and artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver targeted, personalized and contextual experiences to customers and new generations of buyers?
    All customers want you to understand them, know them, anticipate them and help them at every touch point. And newer generations have incredibly high expectations for digital buying experiences. The ability to focus on the right data supporting the right experience is critical, and balancing personalization with respect is also critical.
  • Are you empathetic to your customers’ changing needs and preferences, including sustainability?
    Engaging your customers can feel like a moving target, and the need to dynamically communicate is constantly changing due to myriad external forces and influences—economic, privacy, health, social and environmental—impacting their decisions. Adapting to the disruption over the past few years has forever changed buyer behaviors. Customers expect a dynamic, holistic buyer experience across every in-person and online interaction.

The IBM approach to intelligent commerce

IBM partners with global industry leaders to transform commerce by orchestrating experiences and ecosystems to drive client growth. By using AI, smart data and analytics, customer insights are harvested to design personalized commerce interactions. Modern architecture enables deployment of omnichannel experiences, which activate new business models with new revenue sources, increase enterprise efficiency and enrich customer experiences.