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September 22, 2011


Making Smart Commerce Ubiquitous

By Larry Walsh

How do people buy clothes? They load up the car, head to a mall or department store, grab an arm full of clothes, and head to the dressing room. After trying on a rack of pants, blouses and jackets, the average consumer will head to the checkout counter and then home. But the procurement process doesn’t end there.

Louise Guay discovered the full lifecycle of clothing purchases actually ends with validation. People will often return clothes to a retailer if their family and friends disapprove of the fit or look.

Guay developed a solution that not only short-circuits the validation process, but also eliminates the need to go to the mall in the first place. Her company, My Virtual Model, is an e-commerce site that uses tailored avatars to show people not only what clothes look like, but how they’ll fit on their actual bodies. The site then allows shoppers to share their fashion choices – looks and fits – with friends. From there, people can buy clothes for themselves, or friends can buy clothes as gifts with confidence they won’t be returned.

Guay and My Virtual Model have struck upon the whole digital and converged trend of holistic and unified shopping experiences. And it’s a trend being powered by IBM’s software and platforms. Guay built her business on WebSphere, with provide her with a powerful, adaptable and extensible platform for developing and expanding her services.

IBM has long been a proponent of creating seamless customer experiences through technology. Through its business partners, IBM has developed tools, applications and resources that enable consumers to have virtually the same shopping experience whether their buying online, through mobile devices or in brick-and-mortar stores. The idea is to ensure the consumer doesn’t have a break in continuity, which could cause them to seek goods and services from other providers.

At its Smarter Commerce Global Summit, IBM unveiled a new program that will help its business partners development more ecommerce and digital customer experience tools with cloud-based assets. The training, support, technology and accreditation program will ensure IBM business partners have the ability to build cloud and hybrid solutions for managing consumer experiences and ensuring retailers maximize their investments.

Some people are dismissive of IBM’s “Smart X” marketing campaigns and program names. They express a theory or desired state, not the actual solution. The truth is the desired state is the goal and the technology implementation is the means to an end. Through programs such as Smarter Commerce, IBM is pioneering the next-generation of shopping experiences and providing retailers with engagement tools that will truly be ubiquitious.

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