I'm the new team lead for Smarter Commerce at the IBM Innovation Center Dallas. I started reviewing the extensive list of products and solutions included in Smarter Commerce portfolio, but a more intuitive way for me to approach the problem was to try and visualize all of the interconnections along the path of a sale. All of the pathways can be automated, and almost every transaction can easily be tracked and analyzed. Every time there is an interconnect, there is a chance for someone to make money by optimizing the operation, and there is also a chance for someone to lose money by not being as effective as possible. Because of this, the Smarter Commerce ecosystem has many different actors.
As a customer, once you decide where your company needs help along the transaction trail, you can review the Smarter Commerce portfolio to see what technologies will help you at that point. For business partners and consultants, there are numerous places to help companies improve their existing business by automating and integrating their existing systems. Your knowledge of the portfolio combines with their knowledge of the business to complete a custom solution. For software vendors, you can extend the Smarter Commerce portfolio to build your solutions.
Smarter Commerce recognizes that the sale is just one aspect of the total customer 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. There are IBM products and capabilities for each of the phases of the commerce cycle - Buy, Market, Sell and Service.
What does that really mean for us?
Consider someone ordering a book (or a box of diskettes or an airplane) from an online website, which seems a very simple task today for the end user - the customer. I tried to think of all the steps that go on behind the scenes, and made some notes on how they are defined, who is involved and how the phases of the Smarter Commerce portfolio apply to each. There are a lot of places to make money and there are also place to lose money (from overstocks or over-production, for example), as well. IBM Smarter Commerce solutions are designed to help define, track and ease the flow of information that is now generated and managed with each sale, from start to finish.
In the very beginning, someone wrote the book (the author), someone published the book (the publisher or the author, if self-published), and a wholesaler (or the publisher) stocks the book for retailers to order. The customer connects to a website (a bookstore - the retailer) to purchase the book. The bookstore can order the book from the wholesaler (or the publisher) to have it in stock for sale. This is the buy phase: sourcing and procuring goods for sale. Without goods to sell, there would be no business. This includes business to business collaboration solutions, supply chain management, and similar technology. This ties together the producers and the distributors (wholesalers and retailers.)
Now that the book is available on the retailer's website, customers have to discover it exists. How does this happen? Messaging. The bookstore could send targeted emails or postal messages, mention the author on their social media sites, hang signs in a physical store, and the author could mention the book on social media or do local store visits. If the website has a history of the customer's previous purchases, a targeted list could be presented for other books the customer might like. This is the market phase: delivering and measuring relevant and consistent messages through multiple channels to encourage demand. Cross-channel marketing allows contacting customers how they want to be contacted, to drive demand. Without demand, there will be no sales. The bookstore also should consider their pricing and promotion policy and product mix, to make sure their sales results are optimized.
The customer now decides to order the book. For many businesses today, they consider this the starting point of their business - we sell books. However, the previous steps are also critical - otherwise, how do you define and manage demand, or know how many copies of which books to stock? Without an integrated system, you may not have the proper items in stock at the proper time. This is the sell phase: selling and fulfillment of products and services in multiple channels to encourage revenue growth. Maybe not all of the book seller's customers use the web. Some may still prefer brick and mortar stores. Physical stores and virtual stores are multiple channels - but the book sales are the same. This requires cross-channel selling, order management and fulfillment solutions, and perhaps most importantly, payments and settlements.
The customer completes the order for the book on the website, so now the book must be delivered. The book is shipped from a warehouse, delivered to a local store for pick-up, or drop-shipped from the wholesaler or publisher. This is the service phase: addressing customer needs in all channels to encourage repeat sales and increase customer loyalty. Once a person has made a purchase, he becomes a customer. The challenge to the retailer is to keep that customer coming back. This requires scheduling and tracking delivery, and providing additional services, such as customized web experiences across channels.
All of these interconnections can be automated by solutions in the IBM Smarter Commerce portfolio, working together.
Need more information?
To see the solutions in the Smarter Commerce family, and begin to understand how your company can become part of the Smarter Commerce ecosystem, please join us at the IBM Innovation Center Dallas for an Introduction to Smarter Commerce workshop on December 3, 2013 from 1pm until 4pm. Attendees will gain an understanding of the IBM Smarter Commerce strategy and key software products, learn about the IBM resources available to help use, support, integrate and sell Smarter Commerce technologies, and meet IBM subject matter experts. You can register online. We hope to see you there!