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9/5/2012
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IBM Marketing Center: Swiss Army Knife For E-Commerce

IBM's new cloud-based suite eyes cross-functional teams that don't want or can't buy multiple specialized systems for each aspect of digital marketing.

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IBM on Wednesday introduced IBM Marketing Center, a multipurpose, cloud-based suite aimed at cross-functional teams that don't want or can't afford multiple specialized systems for each and every aspect of digital marketing.

IBM's marketing offerings are just one aspect of its fast-growing Smarter Commerce business, but digital marketing is getting a lot of attention these days from high-profile IBM competitors including Oracle and Salesforce.com. The attention was spurred on early this year by Gartner's prediction that chief marketing officers would soon spend more on technology than chief information officers.

IBM already offers Coremetrics Web analytics and Unica digital campaign management software as cloud-based services. But the sweet spot for these systems is larger organizations with specialized teams that focused on specific tasks. IBM Marketing Center combines capabilities from Coremetrics, Unica, and the recent DemandTec and TeaLeaf acquisitions to serve the needs of cross-functional teams at smaller organizations or within divisions or subsidiaries of larger companies.

"This sits at the convergence of Web analytics, email marketing, and Web site personalization, and it's aimed at teams where the same individuals are working across all of these areas," Jay Henderson of IBM's Enterprise Marketing Management group told InformationWeek.

[ Want more on IBM's cloud strategy? Read 7 Ways IBM Will Make $7 Billion In Cloud. ]

IBM has previously announced integrations between Coremetrics and Unica that make it easier to share data and hand off campaign tasks between tools, but IBM Marketing Center is a single product that supports Web site and mobile analysis, Web site personalization, email campaign delivery and analysis, and list targeting.

DemandTec brings pricing and promotion capabilities to the new offering while TeaLeaf assets contribute Web and mobile navigation-analysis features. Pricing of IBM Marketing Center services starts at $750 per month, scaling up depending on metrics include the volume of traffic analyzed or email messages delivered.

IBM unveiled Marketing Center at the Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Orlando, Fla., which more than 3,000 chief marketing officers, chief information officers, chief procurement officers and various line-of-business executives were expected to attend. Launched 18 months ago, IBM's Smarter Commerce business has brought together acquired assets such as Coremetrics, Unica, and Sterling Commerce together with organic developments such as the new Marketing Center to address the processes involved in e-commerce, including online procurement, selling and digital marketing. Spending on e-commerce is growing three times faster than general IT spending, according to Craig Hayman, general manager of IBM Industry Solutions and the architect of IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative.

"If you include hardware, software, services and all vendors, [e-commerce] is a $90 billion space in 2012, and it's a fast-adoption market in which we're holding our own," Hayman told InformationWeek.

Where focused CRM, social, and marketing vendors address bits and pieces of e-commerce, IBM takes an analytics-driven approach aimed at synthesizing all these activities, Hayman said. CRM-focused competitors Oracle and Salesforce.com have stepped up their games in digital marketing through multiple acquisitions, but Hayman says IBM has a higher, analytics-driven goal. IBM deliberately does not have a CRM system, he said, in part because the company's Global Business Services team implements multiple, third-party CRM systems.

"If you're doing CRM, you want a complete view of the customer, but if you go into a typical company you find that they have a number of customer relationship management systems," Hayman said. "The challenge is getting a view across all of those CRM systems."

The social piece of customer experience is addressed by IBM Cognos Consumer Insight, an optional add-on (on-premise) module for the Cognos business intelligence suite. IBM also offers cloud-based test-analytics services designed to support customer sentiment analysis.

IBM on Wednesday also announced an Emptoris Strategic Supply Management offering based on the company's December acquisition of Emptoris. IBM says the software gives chief procurement officers visibility and control over spending, contracts, and service providers with a window into supplier reliability and purchasing process efficiency. An IBM Smarter Commerce Workbench also announced in Orlando is described as a repository for capturing best practices and assets that can be shared with e-commerce project teams.

Can IBM address the complete customer experience and e-commerce life cycle without a CRM system (of its own) to address after-the-sale customer service and support? As cloud-based CRM systems (that require far less integration work from Global Business Services) become the norm, perhaps IBM will rethink that gap in the portfolio.

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