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IBM exec: Social, mobile no longer emerging technologies

NEW YORK ? An IBM executive at the NRF 102nd Annual Convention & Expo said that marketers must finally embrace mobile and social because the technologies are changing the way consumers are shopping.

During the ?Socialnomics ? Transforming the Way Retailers do Business in the New Social, Mobile and Digital World? session, executives addressed tactics retailers are taking to build their customer base. Mobile and social are no longer accessories marketers can add to their efforts to drive engagement ? the channels are now a necessity for marketing success.

?The revolution is over," said Jill Puleri, vice president of global industry leader for retail at IBM Global Business Services. ?The customer is in control and the demand is changing daily.

?It?s time to start listening closely to this new breed of customers,? she said. ?They are powered by technology and bolded by transparency.?

Seeing results
According to the 2013 IBM Consumer Research study, which surveyed 26,000 respondents in 14 countries, 84 percent of consumers said their last purchase was made in-store because they wanted to touch the product, feel it and take it home ? instant gratification.

Fourteen percent bought items online due to convenience.  

Of the 84 percent that purchased a product in-store, 56 said they would shop at a physical location again, 35 percent have not decided what they would do and 9 percent said they were  going to shop online.

This proves that the retail ecosystem is continually changing and devices such as smartphones and tablets are changing the way consumers shop.

?Amazon is the fastest-growing retailer in the world,? Ms. Puleri said. ?This past Thanksgiving, consumers didn?t wit until after they had their pie to start shopping online.

?We call this couch commerce and it?s account for an increasing percentage of sales,? she said.

Showrooming is making quite an impact, according to Ms. Puleri.

Forty-eight percent of consumers surveyed said they research products while in-store.

Thirty-three percent use a mobile device in-store.

?These are customers who visit the store, test the products and the leave,? Ms. Puleri said. ?For years, showrooming has been the enemy in retail.

?We?re talking about some pretty sophisticated customers,? she said. ?they?re determined to get the best product for the right price.

?They?re professional shoppers.?

According to the executive, it is important for marketers to understand who their customers are and listen to them.

?Again, we?re talking about sophisticated global and affluent customers here,? Ms. PUleri said. ?They?re your best friends and advocates and you should be bending backwards to make sure their experiences are worth sharing.

?Showrooming is just one of many behaviors we are witnessing today and those behaviors are changing rapidly,? she said. ?Customer behavior changes rapidly.

?If you?re serious about serving this customer, you have to be constantly observing their behavior. Change is always uncomfortable, but the industry is evolving in new ways. We?re learning to service and embrace all customers ? even the most difficult ones. Even the showroomer."