The 2015 CRM Market Rising Stars: IBM Rallies Around Commerce

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With a new leader at the helm of its Commerce unit, IBM is using its status as an analytics powerhouse to become a Rising Star in marketing and sales as well. "[The world is] no longer B2C, B2B, B2B2C—it's none of that. We are moving [toward] a C2B world: customer-to-business," Deepak Advani, the new general manager of IBM Commerce, said at IBM Amplify in May.

But the transition to a customer-centric business model has its share of challenges. To compete in a customer-first environment, businesses must deliver an unprecedented level of personalization and relevance through next-generation technology—technology that IBM is now offering, with a little help from its friends.

In the past year, IBM has forged partnerships with Twitter and Facebook to bring its Commerce tools to social media. IBM plans to harness Twitter's proclivity for aggregating customer sentiment; in March the two released their first set of codeveloped social data solutions that combine IBM's predictive analytics with Twitter's fire hose of unstructured customer feedback. With these solutions, brands can anticipate customer churn or other relevant behaviors.

And in May, IBM partnered with Facebook to bring the IBM Commerce marketing portfolio—including IBM Journey Designer and IBM Journey Analytics—together with Facebook's far-reaching advertising platform to deliver highly targeted ads to Facebook users.

"IBM is doing a lot with social media, which is important given how much time consumers spend on social networks, interacting with brands," says Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research. "This is where the consumer is, and this is where [commerce solution] vendors have to be."

The company has been busy making moves in the B2B space as well, launching a B2B commerce tool at the end of 2014 to help B2B companies "catch up" with B2C brands when it comes to selling their products online. And, after investing $1 billion in Watson in early 2014, IBM will continue incorporating Watson’s "cognitive commerce" analytics tools in the IBM Commerce platform. "We know how powerful the Watson technology is," Advani told CRM in March, and "we're going to put it to work for commerce."


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