In an effort to expand its Smarter Commerce customer experience initiative, IBM is purchasing Tealeaf Technology Inc., a specialty provider of customer experience analytics software. Tealeaf’s software suite is designed to analyze online and mobile consumer interactions to detect patterns and issues.
IBM Tries to Get Smart
Smarter Commerce is IBM’s attempt to assist companies with the growing trend of “customer-centric” sales and marketing, or the molding of the full value chain from source through sales and service around customer wants and needs. The ultimate goal is to create an optimized, omnichannel customer experience where the consumer receives targeted messaging, product assortments, fulfillment, and follow-up services that are consistent across all touchpoints.
Through the Tealeaf purchase, IBM hopes to add real-time qualitative analytics to its Smarter Commerce offering, which would allow marketers to quickly respond to problems and refine their efforts at creating an optimized customer experience.
Customer-centricity: Not a New Idea
While customer-centricity is a hot topic du jour, it is not a new idea. Back in 2008, content management author/consultant Gerry McGovern was advising CMSWire readers that consumers were being conditioned to expect the same kind of control and personalization they were obtaining on the Web in the offline world, as well. Traditional marketing and sales tactics that treated the customer as a passive audience member were obsolete; customers were now “dictators” who demanded the products and services they wanted, on their terms.
Truthfully, the idea of customer-centricity goes back a lot further than 2008. Online retail giant Amazon.com is a pioneer of customer-centric sales and marketing, having employed analytics to pinpoint and cater to the preferences of individual consumers almost from its beginnings in 1994. By the late 1990s, brick-and-mortar retailers were starting to employ algorithmic optimization solutions that analyzed reams of sales data to determine what products sold best in what stores, and offering loyalty discount programs that tracked and mined customer purchase data to offer targeted coupons.
However, in the past few years, customer-centricity and the consistent, personalized customer experience have emerged from the retail world to become strategies that are now pursued by businesses in all verticals.
Reading the Future on Tealeaf Purchase
IBM has been on a recent acquisition splurge of smaller technology companies specializing in different aspects of analytics. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, just last month IBM entered purchase agreements with compensation/sales performance software provider Varicent Software and “Big Data” analytics technology vendor Vivisimo Inc. But will the Tealeaf purchase pay off for Big Blue? ExpertSupport seems to think so, noting in a brief on the purchase that “being able to extract critical information from a variety of enterprise databases, and turning the insights generated through the application of sophisticated analytics, pays off well for investing in Big Data.” In addition, ExpertSupport praises IBM for being a leader in performing research to validate this type of targeted data analysis, as well as in providing software to make it possible.
IBM has done quite well for itself bulking up its core technology initiatives through purchases of boutique software providers like Tealeaf over the years, and there is no immediate reason to doubt the rationale behind its purchase of Tealeaf. However, IBM should keep in mind that the simple act of enabling customer-centricity is no longer enough to distinguish itself in an increasingly crowded customer experience marketplace. Innovation is the key to success in customer experience, and time will tell if Tealeaf functionality will help IBM take Smarter Commerce to the genius level.