eCommerce & Merchandising

Something to talk about

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At the recent Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Tampa, we got to hear from some leading high tech manufacturers about how they manage the customer experience lifecycle when marketing, selling and servicing business, or enterprise, customers rather than consumers. This was all part of a series of industry roundtables focused on key topics related to Smarter Commerce.

Let me share some of the highlights – and suggest that each of these topics bears some further discussion going forward. Again, keep in mind, the overall theme was around B2B customer experience – we weren’t addressing manufacturers whose products are destined for consumers.

Is all marketing – even B2B marketing – becoming P2P, that is, person to person? Well, yes, things are getting a lot more personalized. We talk about it all the time at IBM and we see our clients implementing more personalization. However, I think this requires a big caveat. Our discussion participants at Summit agreed that you also need to market to the ecosystem in which you, as the manufacturer, play. For instance, manufacturers would be wise to engage with communities of practice or communities of innovation that spring up around certain technology platforms or business models.

Does “social engagement” really matter for B2B players? Again, the answer is yes, but with a twist. The engagement is often with the key ecosystems of engineers, product developers, platform providers, suppliers, service providers, etc. And, there is also a lot of focus on internal engagement within the manufacturer, especially for large players who have thousands, tens of thousands or more employees.

Are your direct sales relationships as strong as they used to be? Many of our participants said, no. The implication is that digital marketing has dramatically increased in importance for these manufacturers as their customers increasingly look for detailed, high-value content online. The question is, how well are manufacturers taking advantage of this trend? Are you able to predict what matters to your customers when they are online at your site? Are you able to then personalize the content or other response that gets served up to that customer?

How is the Internet of Things changing the customer experience lifecycle? These days, anything electronic can and will be “connected” to other devices. We see this in the home, in cars, and of course, in ourselves (biometric monitoring). As this trend accelerates, the issue is not just about understanding what the humans are doing, but also what the machines and devices are doing. Big data and analytics will play a huge role in tying this together.

I’d love to hear your perspective! And I’ll plan on delving into each of these topics in more depth going forward.

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