Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

papas_168x100by Paul Papas, @papasgbs

On March 14 we announced a new initiative at IBM — Smarter Commerce.  Part of what are doing is forming a new consulting practice to support our clients as they adjust to a world of commerce that is being reshaped by all things digital.  Our view is that we’ve reached a point of time when this convergence – of the physical with the digital, social, and mobile – calls for some significant changes in the way we think about commerce.

To underscore that convergence, and the power of realtime, human connections, we held our first public briefing on Smarter Commerce via the IBM Virtual Center and webcast it live to the IBM Global Business Services Channel. (Click the image to watch the briefing and feel free to visit our voice-enabled, web-based 3D meeting environment for a first hand experience.)


From talking to clients I’ve learned that there is one relatively simple place businesses can – and should – start.  They should start by seeing their customers as humans.

What do I mean by that?  Retailers traditionally view customers as “shoppers,” airlines see them as “travelers,” pharmaceuticals see them as “patients.”  They view their customer through what is essentially a pretty narrow lens.  The labels are blinders that unnecessarily and detrimentally limit their view of what’s possible in terms of new or enhanced products and services and new ways of engaging with them.

A couple of examples:

In Life Sciences, the value proposition is about producing a product.  But if you think about someone with diabetes or high blood pressure as a person, not a patient, you can quickly envision services that could help them manage their health in their day-to-day lives, not just treat their conditions.

Or think about an insurance provider.  The insurance company has a wealth of actuarial data that it uses to manage its risk.   But what if in addition to using that data internally it applied it to a new service that allowed individuals to assess their risks in everything from heasciconlth habits to the roads they customarily drive to work.

It is only when you view customers as the complete human beings that you will you begin to understand how to engage them…. and start to see the new possibilities – new ways to create new value in an increasingly digital, social, mobile and connected world – the new world of Smarter Commerce.

Our Institute for Business Value has a new paper coming out soon that explores this topic further – and looks at how leading companies are responding to the digital transformation of business.  My colleagues have created a summary of some of its key findings and implications and you can learn more about Smarter Commerce on

We’re just at the beginning of something that I think is going to fundamentally change the world of commerce, and I’m eager to hear the opinions and experiences of others.

And since this social era is driven by dialogue and exchange, we’ve posed a question on the new TED Conversations site. You are most welcome to continue the conversation there, or in comments here.


Paul Papas is IBM’s Smarter Commerce Global Leader.

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