Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

How IBM Is Watching How You Shop Online

Starting yesterday and continuing into today, computing giant IBM has been putting out quick reports on the state of online shopping.

Apparently, this is now a officially a thing, so here are some stats taken from the latest snapshot as of 3 pm ET, because we just know you’re not shopping on a tablet, you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to hear about how many others are:

  • Online sales are up 20 percent for this same time period over Black Friday 2011.

  • The number of consumers using a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site is at 28 percent, up from 18.1 percent in 2011.
  • The number of consumers using their mobile device to make a purchase is 14.3 percent, up from 10.3 percent in 2011.
  • Shoppers using the iPad led to more retail purchases more often per visit than other mobile devices, with conversion rates reaching 4.2 percent, higher than all other mobile devices.
  • Shoppers referred from social networks like Facebook and Twitter generated 0.18 percent of all online sales on Black Friday.

So, you might be wondering how IBM gets all this info. It’s all part of its strategic play in the world of big data, essentially helping companies make more sense of the huge troves of data they’ve gathered that were previously being ignored. Smarter Commerce is the area of IBM devoted to helping retailers better understand that data so they can come up with improved ideas concerning how to sell more stuff.

Where they gather that data is the IBM Benchmark. It’s a cloud-based digital analytics platform that soaks up digital information about how consumers respond to different ways of selling things online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long, from 500 different online retailers. IBM won’t name them — they joined the network under condition of anonymity — but Big Blue says the companies that participate include about half of the companies named on the Internet Retailer Top 100 list. A lot of the technology comes from Coremetrics and Unica, acquisitions IBM made in 2010.

Last year, I talked about all this with Craig Hayman, IBM’s VP of the WebSphere, Application and Integration Middleware Software Division of the IBM Software Group. One quote from that conversation sticks out in my memory; it bears repeating here:

“If you think about consumers, and you think about the amount of technology that they have at their hands, to reach out to read reviews and talk to friends and families, they’re incredibly empowered. There’s not one purchase decision that they make that is not impacted by some element of social networks. What does that do to the companies that have to deal with that by offering the best products and services, and you see companies are struggling to do that: To make the right offer at the right time with the right price. When they do it well, we all talk about how it went well; and when they do it badly, we talk about how annoying it was.”

Now you know. Not only are retailers and your credit card companies watching you shop, so is IBM.


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