IBM Cloud to Redesign Shop Direct's Financial Services Platform

Today, IBM announced an agreement to redesign multi-brand online retailer Shop Direct’s financial services platform, which will run through IBM's hybrid cloud and provide Shop Direct retailers with personalized financial services products. The agreement is an extension of an existing digital transformation partnership between the two brands, wherein IBM Cloud and IBM's consulting services teamed up with Shop Direct in response to shifting customer demands in a mobile-first, cloud-based world.

The new agreement aims to transform Shop Direct’s credit offerings and provide customers with a wider range of financial services options, including more self-service options, and a more personalized experience overall. The program will also separate Shop Direct's financial and retail systems, providing Shop Direct with a new financial platform through IBM's hybrid cloud.

Karl Cama, chief architect for IBM, emphasizes the role of personalization in connecting with customers. "Personalization now has gone to the level of 'in context'—if we're talking about marketing or campaign, let me offer you something in the context of the situation. If there's a life event, if there's a change in location for you as a human being, I can now leverage that information," says Cama.

The new platform is designed to incorporate applications and data from both public and private clouds from multiple sources, with the goal of delivering a wide range of flexible credit product offers, respond quickly to new offers that become available, and launch new credit offerings more quickly and at a lower cost. Additionally, the financial platform aims to provide quicker responsiveness to regulatory changes, streamline processes, and reduce cost by having Shop Direct customers pay only for what they use.

Cama also stresses the importance of being able to leverage data from multiple sources. "Combining data to understand the individual across all the touch points—we know through studies and research that people search on their phones, [but] they prefer to buy on a different platform; there are times of day when people are [more] active; there are different connected devices—all those different things allow Shop Direct to communicate with a client," Cama says. 

"At the same time, what clients want is consistency—a uniform shopping experience, uniform pricing if they look at items on different devices or media, and a shopping experience that makes them come back," he continues.

The existing partnership between IBM and Shop Direct, which was announced in 2015, is a 10-year, large-scale services agreement that transitions Shop Direct to a hybrid cloud model. The secure, open enterprise cloud platform enables Shop Direct to quickly deliver new innovations to its customers and employees, and is a response to increasing demand for cloud computing.

With regard to future plans for the partnership, Cama says that technological innovation is crucial. "Retailers at Shop Direct…are looking at the next wave of technology—the ability now to not only understand you as a person, but to understand events and to capitalize, not only on the events about you as a person but also world events. [The question now is], how do we leverage that information to provide the right merchandising or the right promotions?"

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