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11/12/2009
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IBM Rolls Out Mobile Shopping Software

WebSphere Commerce 7 includes components that let retailers connect with consumers through text messages and social networking sites.

IBM on Thursday introduced software that it says will allow consumers to shop online through mobile devices more easily while letting retailers reach customers more effectively.

The software, the Mobile Store component of WebSphere Commerce 7, includes social networking features and hooks that retailers can use to add personalized messages and offers to individual consumers.

"New sales channels and points of interaction now define and fragment consumers' retail journey, forcing companies to change the way they market, build relationships, and deliver brand value," said Beth Smith, IBM's vice president for its WebSphere brand, in a statement.

The application effectively provides an e-commerce front end for online merchants that lets them provide consumers with advance features like side-by-side product comparisons, real-time inventory updates, and store finders.

It links to back-end services such as IBM's WebSphere Application server and DB2 database.

Retailers can also use the software to deliver targeted text messages or e-mails to shoppers or reach them through Facebook or other social networking sites.

"WebSphere Commerce is designed to help retailers around the world execute marketing campaigns and build rich customer relationships that span sales channels and interaction models," said Smith.

U.S. retail sales from Web sites are expected to hit $211.7 billion in 2012, compared to $125.1 billion in 2007, according to market research firm Forrester. The number of mobile users worldwide will increase 191% from 2006 to 2011, to about one billion, according to IBM.

IBM in June pledge to invest $100 million in mobile services research over the next five years.

IBM shares were roughly flat, at $126.95, in mid-afternoon trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

InformationWeek and Dr. Dobb's have published an in-depth report on how Web application development is moving to online platforms.

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