IBM wants to ensure marketers are prepared for unexpected surges in online traffic and sales. As a result, it is offering Event Readiness services that will enable businesses in industries including retail, banking, telecommunications, and manufacturing to prepare for these unexpected surges and turn demand into better customer engagement that builds brand loyalty.

Loyalty360 caught up with Trey Seck, VP of IBM Commerce, to learn more about this very exciting venture.

What factors prompted IBM to launch these services and how can they impact brands/marketers to prepare for unexpected surges in online traffic/sales?

Ecommerce is seeing dramatic growth. In retail, for instance, 2Q 2015 online sales grew by 14.7% year-over-year with one in four purchases coming from a mobile device. Customers are flocking to the Internet more and more to conduct business and make purchases.  All the while, customer expectations for a seamless experience are growing. A recent IBM study revealed that more than 60% leave a mobile site or app after a poor experience and don’t return. A site that goes down or is slow to respond can turn into lost revenue.

The intent was to draw upon our best practices, and provide a better opportunity for other clients to become aware of the importance of preparation, and how IBM can play an active part in that. IBM is helping brands pro-actively identify risks, creating the opportunity to reach out in advance of these failures. This allows clients to gain a deeper understanding of risk factors under traffic/sale surges, and how performance/stability/user experience can be optimized during those periods.

IBM launched these services in response to the outcomes of our client successes in recent years of critical events. Those clients who have partnered with IBM throughout their planning and preparation of their key events have been greatly successful in recent years, but we have also seen cases where clients had not worked with IBM prior, and ran into critical issues on their most important days of business.

Specifically, how can brands turn unexpected spikes in demand into sales opportunities that boost customer engagement and, ultimately, brand loyalty?

Ensuring your site is delivering an exceptional and consistent experience across all channels that meets the customers’ expectations is key. Customers don’t think in terms of channels. They expect a smooth and rewarding experience whether interacting with websites, mobile devices or apps, social media, email, or in physical stores. Brands can leverage data from unexpected spikes in traffic and sales to understand your customers better, what they want and even why they may be leaving your site due to a poor experience so that you can improve site performance. You can also understand what touchpoint strategies yield the best returns to optimize re-targeting for future campaigns. 

How important is it for brands to listen to their customers?  

There is currently a disconnect between what brands think they are delivering vs. what consumers experience. Based on a recent IBM and Econsultancy study, 69% of marketers believe they deliver a superior online experience to customers. Yet just 22% of consumers feel the average retailer understands them, and only 21% percent believe the marketing communications they receive are “usually relevant.”  Brands need to understand what their customers want and deliver an exceptional experience to acquire and retain customers.

How long have these services been available to marketers and what sort of response/measurement have you been able to document?

IBM has been running an internal readiness program for eight years, and provided separate Services and Support offerings to help prepare clients for their critical events for more than a decade. The new Event Readiness program aims to create more synergy between Services and Support in a closer partnership with the clients in their preparations. 

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