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Big Data and big goals dominate IBM's Smarter Commerce Summit

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18th Jun 2013
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"Businesses must leverage Big Data and analytics if they are to better understand and engage their customers."

That was the key message coming out of IBM’s Smarter Commerce Summit in Monaco as IBM announced the availability of its social analytics portfolio in the Cloud and showcased its supercomputer Watson with the help of partner Nielsen and former Tesco CEO Terry Leahy, who reiterated the importance of Big Data in the age of customer experience.

IBM’s GM of industry solutions Craig Hayman first took to the stage to explain that to engage customers, businesses must adopt three key best practices: understand you customers’ journey and intentions in order to predict their needs and next steps; connect with customers through the value chain, bringing together procurement, supply chain, marketing and sales into an integrated approach; and engage customers at the right time and at the right place during their journey.

“Whatever department you’re in, know the value of productive customer engagement. The challenge is in using an approach that’s systematic and at scale,” he said. “Applying Big Data and analytics to mobile, social and Cloud is critical to understanding who your customers are and, if you make those changes, you have a better chance of delighting your customers.”

Hayman then went on to highlight the firm’s mobile, social and Cloud offerings, announcing that from today, IBM is unveiling a Cloud version of its Big Data and social analytics solution for CMOs. The announcement adds to the firm's existing SmartCloud Solutions portfolio and aims to help business leaders improve customer experience, reach new customers, generate new revenue streams and become more competitive in their industry. 

Manoj Sexena, IBM’s GM of Watson Solutions, followed Hayman's lead, explaining just how supercomputer Watson, which won US game show Jeopardy! in 2011 is helping business connect with their customers. As a cognitive technology, Watson has three major functions, he said: The ability to understand natural language and human communication at scale; generate and evaluate evidence-based hypothesis; and adapt and learn from user sections and responses.

“It’s a natural fit for Watson to be applied to smarter commerce as, just like healthcare, here Big Data is also a problem. Customers may be telling you more via social but they’re still getting a lower quality of service. By creating a natural dialogue with customers, Watson is helping businesses engage customers across channels and empowering them to work you in the way they want to work.”

Nielsen is one firm already using Watson to help them better manage customer danger. “Data is changing out world,” said EVP of innovation, Scott McKinley, in the keynote. “We need to figure out how to use data to deliver insights to our customers in order to help them understand how consumers are consuming advertising and media across tablets and smartphones.”

The research firm was one of the first partners IBM named during the announcement that Watson would now be put to work in customer service. The supercomputer is helping Nielsen analyse all of the unstructured data the company is struggling to manage and integrate it alongside the firm’s 70 years of structured data.

And understanding this data is important across all industries. Former CEO of Tesco, Sir Terry Leahy was the final speaker to join the keynote to explain how data can transform customer experience, which he said in turn transforms a company’s value, performance and prospects. When the former Tesco marketing director first joined the supermarket in 1992, Tesco was half of the value of rivals Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer on the stock market but by the time he left as CEO in 2011, Tesco was doing 10 times better than both. Why the change? Because data transformed the customer experience, he said.

“Data was a problem for us back then because we didn’t have the tools to collect and analyse like you do today. But we listened to our customers, talked to them about what was good, bad and needed to change which gave us the authentic voice of the customer. We brought that into the organisation and from that day forwards, the businesses grew 10% year-on-year. The voice of the customer gave us direction.”

“The second thing I learnt was that big goals are needed if you’re going to change a company. If you’ve got the customer knowledge, you need to take that risk and go out there and make those changes that the customer wants you to do.”

Leahy spoke of Tesco’s infamous Clubcard loyalty scheme, which he says was the first example of a company managing its relationship with its customers through Big Data. It may have cost the businesses a quarter of its profits to launch but it was an example of a personal risk that paid off. For the first time, Tesco was able to understand customer behaviour on an individual basis and target and tailor its products and services accordingly.

“The key is Big Data, and how you use that to engage customers and convey that you as a brand is better than anyone else.”

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