What #SmarterCommerce Means #IBM

For IBM, "Smarter Commerce" is both a series of conferences and a smarter way of doing business.  This year's gathering, in Nashville, is my first IBM conference.  It's being held at the sprawling and magnificent Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee.  It's a fantastic place to learn about new technologies and techniques that all target improving customer capture, experience and loyalty.

Influencers Invited (Disclosure)

I am a guest of IBM at its Smarter Commerce conference, along with about a dozen other "VIP Influencers".  The honor came with no request that I blog or tweet, let alone what I should blog or tweet.  Just a "come and see" invitation.  

Have to say that I like IBM's confidence and approach.   "Engaging" "influencers" always comes with a measure of risk, as you can never be quite sure what they'll have to say should they decide to say something, blog something, tweet something.  Yet IBM's confidence is well placed, as their entire event shows just how much they "get" smarter commerce.

Influencers at the conference include the likes of: 

@PeterShankman, author of Nice Companies Finish First (not an affiliate link - none of them are)Triberr founder @DinoDogan, Return on Relationship author @tedrubin, #GetRealChat creator, Pam Moore, Smarter Commerce Social Media Command Center guru, Bryan Kramer, Modern Media CEO, Tonia Ries, Ricoh Global Marketing, Sandra Zoratti, entrepreneur, Kim Garst, social strategist and small business expert, @BrianMoranNew York Times best-selling author Bryan Eisenberg, @TheSocialCMO a network of Chief Marketing Officers "sharing power of social networks and coffee...Robert Moore, founder of Internet Media Labs, and that social media renegade and expert in Bahamian affairs, Drew Neisser - and others! (Glad to add more!) 

IBMers: White Shirts & Power Ties

Gotta confess that I've always had a blue suit, heavily-starched white shirt, power tie impression of IBM (yes, I often find myself wearing the same uniform).  Meaning, I was a bit skeptical of just how good IBM would be at leading others to agile, customer-centric "smarter commerce".  In short, I arrived with a healthy dose of skepticism.    

To make matters worse, when I checked in, I asked how many "IBMers" would be in attendance at this three-day event.  The receptionist answered with a smile:  "About 2,000."  (I have come to learn that 2,000 IBMers at a conference is not so big a conference as IBM goes.)

The reality?  While the white-shirt and power-tie industries still do okay with some IBMers, what impresses one most is how passionate and smart IBMers are.  A diverse group, they have a keen sense of the need for agility.  They are passionate about understanding their customers, their partners, and they are incredible evangelists for their products and services.  

Rush to judgment?  My glowing impression may seem like a broad brush after only two days of IBM immersion, but, rest assured, I have intently listened, met, poked and probed.  Everywhere I turned, there was an IBMer to chat with, to listen to - to learn from.  "Smart and passionate" is the impression everyone here exudes when you take the time to test them at their craft.

Empowered to shine.  It seems that IBMers have been empowered to shine with their own personalities and talents -- and they do so quite well.

Lesson:  Empower your employees to be brand evangelists and they'll inspire

It's a wonderful thing to see employees who are so excited about their brand products and services.  Unleash your employees to be brand evangelists.  They'll likely do a far better job than you'd ever imagine in converting prospects into customers.

Get Smart! (And Get Social!)

Not your grandfather's IBM.  The IBM Smarter Commerce expo center is a great spot to see much of the exciting stuff IBM is up to.  Let's just say, it's not your grandfather's IBM.  It's high-tech.  It's cutting edge.  And, it's very "social".

IBM has always been a tech leader, even in your grandparent's era.  But what makes this company so special now is that as a global, mega-brand, it is working incredibly hard to be agile, to innovate, and to put the customer at the center of every experience.  (Not to suggest that these attributes haven't always been dear to the company!)

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Wander, stop, listen and learn.  Don't worry, no sense of walking through a gauntlet of hawkers like at your typical expo hall.  Instead, though the hall is brimming with exhibits, the varieties of technologies and customer solutions being offered let people gravitate to what interests them most.

Want to learn about "Big Data"?  You may not.  I did.  Plenty of experts on hand to make the mysterious, less so.  Ten minutes with IBMer J. Graeme Noseworthy gave a better sense of how it all works and what to look for, than some very long presentations on the topic.  (Make sure you know where the data is coming from.  Is it "at rest" or flowing?  Is it trustworthy?)

Biometrics:  Facial and Voice Recognition  Like I said, give an IBMer a moment to tell you about their products and their eyes light up and they'll tell ya just what you need to know.  Cool stuff. IBM is looking to make online transactions more secure by layering facial and voice recognition "passwords".  Can't these be "gamed"?  Stop by and they'll answer that question.

Test drive a Jaguar or LandRover! (Ok, not really.)  See what IBM is doing with helping customers scale consumer product-testing experiences.  It's  Matrix-like and fun!  (Sorry, that's all I'm saying. Check it out!)

"It's about ME!"  (Your customer, that is!)  Everything about Smarter Commerce is about your customer:  how to serve her when, where and how she wants to be served, wowing her every step of the way.  From mobile banking, to typical retail, customer experiences are getting better because data capture and analysis are getting much better.  Visit the expo and find out what's under the hood!

What about the hologram?  Yes, I know.  It seems a little scary in my Vine video....It's even slightly more so IRL!

It's about the customer...
in context.
Deliver Your Products and Services in Context
Deliver Help, Not Hype

Speaker after speaker hammers away a pivotal point:  "Business must provide customers what they want, when they want it, where they want it, how they want it!"  Tall order.  IBM solutions, however, are all about figuring out those critical touch points.  It's data-driven customer service that focuses on what the customer really wants "today", not six months ago.

As keynote speaker and author @JayBaer would say, smarter commerce is about replacing hype, with help.  IBM Smarter Commerce looks to deliver both the data analysis and platforms to deliver the "help" seamlessly.  At the Smarter Commerce conference, you’ll see how leading organizations are using IBM Smarter Commerce to meet the demands of empowered customers in real time.

Additional Smarter Commerce Takeaways
From keynotes, breakout sessions, conversations and social

 IBM's "Supercomputer", @IBMWatson?  Yah, there's an app for that!

IBM supercomputer, the one of the Jeopardy gameshow fame, is in virtual attendance at Smarter Commerce.  In fact, a big announcement was made that now that IBMWatson had proven itself on primetime, IBMWatson is ready for the challenge of customer service, putting to task his unparalleled ability to find answers to the toughest questions.  (Oh, by the way, we are told he has also gotten much smarter since his last gameshow appearance.  It seems that he has the ability to learn from his experiences -- and even programs himself to be smarter...Scared yet?)

Make no mistake, IBM understands the challenge of customer service and the need to be really good at it.  As IMBWatson's chief technologist observed, "One letter separates customer 'help' from customer 'hell'.'

IBM Partner USAA, Wayne Peacock
  • What matters is what you hear from your customers.
  • Have a relentless focus on your customers.
  • Be purpose driven.

Sir Terry Leahy, of Tesco fame

In a keynote address, Sir Terry Leahy, of Tesco fame, helped capture the essences of "smarter commerce".  Explaining Tesco's stunning success, Sir Leahy observed, in a very understated way:  "We transformed the customer experience on the basis of data."  

Other points Sir Leahy made:
  • A leader will take you farther than you can go on your own.
  • You have to find the truth.  See yourself as others see you.
  • Leadership has to have the courage to confront what they’re not doing so well.
  • Customers are your most reliable guide. If you listen, they’ll show you the way forward.
  • Have audacious goals.
  • We all screen out information that is not focused to our needs.
  • Ask your customers what they think your company stands for and what they would like it to stand for -- make their answers your guideposts.
  • Differentiate the experience globally to suit local customers.
  • Call the company to the needs of the customer.
  • Data is priceless.  Build everything back from the customer.  (Tesco used heat-seeking cameras in its stores to assess when lines occurred most!)

 Peter Shankman - "Nice Companies Finish First"

Entrepreneur Peter Shankman, who spent fourteen hours a day for about years building an online community at HARO, offered his latest insights:
  • Brevity is the new nice.  
  • You have about 2.3 seconds to connect with a consumer online.
  • Do the thing you say you’re going to do.
  • Strive to be transparent and relevant.
  • Use the consumer data you have to bring relevant content to consumers.
  • Look for opportunities to dazzle your customers so that you stay "top of mind".
  • Be transparent with your customers about how they can get in touch with you.

Triberr founder Dino Dogan on Creating "Insane Loyalty"

Triberr founder, DinoDogan, who has been able to create "insane loyalty" with his Tribber community, provided some tips on how to do the same elsewhere:
  • Be a super-connector.  (Connect with others and help others connect with each other.)
  • Make your customers feel special.  Give them status.  (A Mercedes wouldn't feel quite the same without the Mercedes crest.)
  • There's no such thing as "B2B", it's all people to people.
  • If you can give your customers a special status, they will come back.

Some "Smarter Commerce"nuggets captured from my Twitter stream

If you link to my Twitter stream, you'll get to see the "tweets" in all their glory, with notations on where they originated from.  Please forgive me for honing them down to mainly the lessons here:
  • No trust.  No business.  @valaafshar
  • Make your employees feel stewardship over your brand.  @tedrubin
  • Use social media like a telephone, not a megaphone.  @valaafshar
  • Social is not about the number of tweets or followers you have, but about the depth and quality of conversations and relationships.  @PamMktgNut (aka, Pam Moore)
  • Three words Apple uses internally:  simple, innovative and beautiful.  @PorterGail via @PamMktgNut
  • Your network is your net worth.  @PorterGail via @KimGarst
  • Use social media as your marketing GPS.  @BryanKramer via @tamicann
If you use Twitter, I strongly suggest you search the hashtag #SmarterCommerce for tons of Smarter Commerce nuggets.  If you're not using Twitter, no better time to start than now!

Please be sure to connect with me on LinkedIn Twitter or shoot me an email at:  


And I'd love to hear any Smarter Commerce comments you may have!  Thanks!

And special thanks to IBM, Tami Cannizzaro, Jay Baer, and Michael Ditanna!

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