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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: E-commerce Today with John Mesberg, IBM

November 9, 2012 No Comments

There is no doubt that the many forms of online communication available today impact e-commerce.

In the below interview, John Mesberg from IBM Commerce Solutions outlines ways in which social media, mobile apps, and cloud computing play significant roles in the growth and transformation of e-commerce.

  • Q.  In your opinion, what role does social-media play in the evolution of e-commerce today?

If we look at social media from an online sales perspective, the reality is that it’s not having a tremendous direct impact on e-commerce.  Per this year’s IBM Benchmark for back to school, today social media only drives two percent of online sales and one percent of total traffic. Where social media is really making an impact on e-commerce, however, is in how it can be used to amplify brand messaging, taking advantage of the network effect to extend a brand’s reach through its consumer advocates.

Social media is changing the way brands interact with consumers because, when used right, it presents an opportunity to deliver a more personalized shopping experience, employ social networking capabilities and create online communities that drive both customer satisfaction and increased sales.  A great example is a Finnish retailer that teamed up with IBM Smarter Commerce to launch its e-commerce site that gives shoppers the convenience of online shopping with the added benefit of an enthusiast social community.  Currently the site has more than 25,000 members and enthusiasts who’ve completed more than 10,000 product reviews – a tremendous added value to their customers.

  • Q. How has the growth of the mobile industry affected e-commerce over the last 5 years?

We are living in the mobile and social age, where consumers are turning to friends for product advice and their smartphones or tablet to make purchases.  This is the foundation of IBM’s Smarter Commerce strategy – to put those customers at the center of all commerce operations to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.  By providing intelligent automation of marketing, sales, customer service and procurement, Smarter Commerce helps chief marketing officers, chief procurement officers, sales, supply chain and customer service executives do their jobs more productively and efficiently.

Companies need to leverage the fact that a mobile device is more than just a portable desktop; that location-based services, presence, and mobile payments/loyalty are key enablers for an exceptional shopping experience.  The rapid emergence of the mobile channel is forcing companies, especially retailers, to marry e-commerce and brick-and-mortar strategies to create an omni-channel presence capable of living up to the expectations of today’s digitally-connected consumer.  Delivering on this omni-channel vision has been talked about for the last couple of years, but many retailers are just now able to execute on this vision and are finding that, to be successful in omni-channel, the store is a critical element. Mobile devices are finding their way into the store, both in the hands of the consumer as well as in the hands of store associates to improve customer engagement.

  • Q. What are you seeing as the biggest challenges to advancing online search solutions for merchandisers?

We think merchandisers will start to take a more important role in how e-commerce sites should look.  Again, through the help of analytics, merchandisers can understand shoppers across channels and adapt more quickly to rising customer demands.  The biggest challenge is simplifying the complexity of these processes to put the technology in the hands of the business users who understand the finer details of merchandising.

  • Q. How can IBM’s new solutions, such as IBM Smart Cloud for Smarter Commerce, work to help organizations optimize productivity?

IBM Commerce on Cloud brings the power of the IBM portfolio delivering Smarter Commerce to clients who prefer a Cloud deployment model, providing a prescriptive approach for rapid on-boarding and fast time-to-value.  It is an integrated platform for generating customer interest and then offering, selling, transacting and fulfilling orders in the cloud. It offers the benefits of cloud economies, such as low up front capital investment, pay-for-use models, and instant and ongoing scalability, to businesses of all sizes.

  • Q. What e-commerce benefits do you see coming out of IBM’s recent acquisition of Tea Leaf Technologies?

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember the role of the e-commerce site is to get customers to buy.  The focus must be on understanding and enhancing the customer experience, and that’s where TeaLeaf comes in.  TeaLeaf analyzes interactions on websites and mobile devices.  With real-time and automated insights into online customer buying experiences, companies can gain actionable insight that allows them to improve customer support, transform site usability, tailor marketing campaigns and increase online conversion rates

  • Q. How do WebSphere Commerce B2C and Omni-Channel Retailing solutions work to provide a seamless, personalized user experience for customers?

Recently, IBM was named a leader in Forrester’s wave report on B2C Commerce Suites [Forrester Wave: B2C Commerce Suites, Q3 2012].  A key aspect of that leadership comes from our strategy to deliver a comprehensive e-commerce solution that spans more than just the website.  As part of our Smarter Commerce strategy, we are integrating Websphere Commerce with other solutions within our portfolio, such as our marketing and order management solutions, to address the entire shopping continuum, from generating interest through to fulfilling the order.  We see fulfillment as the next big battle for retailers in better serving their customers.

John Mesberg is Vice President, Commerce Solutions. In this role he is responsible for bringing value to our clients through an expanded suite of solutions including powerful e-commerce capabilities, market-leading order management products, innovative optimization and logistics solutions, and extensive B2B integration capabilities.



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