A Glimpse of the Future at IBM’s Global Smarter Commerce Summit
This week I was one of 3,500 people from 26 countries to attend IBM’s Global Smarter Commerce Summit in Nashville Tennessee. While I also enjoy attending more specialised, analytics-focused conferences, I find events like Smarter Commerce a fantastic opportunity to take a step back and look at the big picture.
After all, IBM is in the process of building out an enormous picture. In the marketing and analytics space alone, acquisitions like Coremetrics, Unica, SPSS, Tealeaf, DemandTech and Netezza are being brought together for integrated marketing and business success, not to mention integration with the entire spectrum of IBM products.
The interesting thing to me is always the themes that emerge from events like these. For those who did not have an opportunity to attend, let me recap a few.
Big Data … use
I know what you’re thinking – “big data, haven’t heard of that before…</sarcasm>” But what I found interesting about the discussion of big data at Smarter Commerce was that the discussion has evolved. No ifs, ands or buts about it – big data isn’t just coming, it’s already here and already being used. It’s no longer being touted as “the next big thing” or useful in and of itself. Rather, the conversation is moving to the application of insights from this data. Data is the way in which we can get to know our customers, and to delight customers we must first know them. (-Best Buy) (And for some enjoyable irony: consider the fact that we are using massive volumes of data to treat people as more than a number. (-Jay Baer))
Companies are not the only ones to be leveraging larger data sets. The power has moved from the boardroom to the living room (-Porter Gale) and this new era of the informed customer has consumers looking at more data than ever. In 2010, consumers used an average of 5.3 sources of information to make a decision. One short year later, that was already at 10.4. Why? Because the more information that is available, the more information is considered necessary for consumers to feel they have conducted a thorough review. (-Jay Baer)
Marketing as a Service
What data and technology allow us to do is to provide “Youtility”: Marketing so helpful that people would pay for it. (-Jay Baer) After all, we all know what bad marketing looks like. But good marketing is seamless – you don’t even know it’s happening. (-John Lovett.) What enables that is integrated efforts across channels, with the right message to the right person at the right time in the right way. It comes at the intersection of data and action across channels.
Not only are there a plethora of channels within digital, there is the physical side of the world to consider. (Look out your window – it’s still there!) It’s not enough for companies to think of physical or digital – it’s about digital and physical. (-Jay Baer) For the consumer, the physical and digital experiences are not separate, and companies need to exploit the convergence of these. (-Paul Papas)
The reality is, the world is forever changed by the rapid adoption of digital technology. Digital has created a new consumer and a new mindset. However, this is an opportunity! In retail, digital is often viewed as the enemy, or the downfall of the physical. (Think of concerns such as showrooming and the impact on mobile on price competition.) However, while mobile is often rumoured to be the “death” of physical stores, mobile is in fact an asset – it is a bridge between the physical and digital worlds. (-Philip McKoy, Target)
Opportunity in Chaos
Companies have two choices in our new hyper-connected world: They can be fearful of change, or embrace it and re-invent their approach. Companies that take smart risks in the new world will thrive. (-Philip McKoy, Target)
And much as this is a new world, this isn’t truly new, nor the first time this has happened! Massive brands like IBM, Disney, CNN, Apple, Fed Ex and more were formed by seizing opportunities during difficult economic times. (-Jeremy Gutsche) Industries have been re-invented over and over again throughout history.
In the end, it is about seizing upon the opportunities our changing world provides, and focusing on the customer. As Sir Terry Leahy, former CEO of Tesco, said, “When I learned to follow the customer, I stopped having to look for growth.”
Brave New World
Events like Smarter Commerce are great previews of the future of marketing and technology. Craig Hayman spoke of the evolution of computing technology, from tabulating to programmable to cognitive. Cognitive technology like IBM’s Watson is in itself an evolutionary step: cognitive technology learns, so it gains value over time rather than becoming quickly outdated. (-Craig Hayman.) Innovations like Watson, Jaguar/LandRover’s virtual vehicle experience or IBM’s augmented location services are just a hint of the amazing things to come, and I for one am excited.