Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
January, 11th 2013

Karen Lowe, General Manager, Global Retail Industry, IBM

By Karen Lowe

The beginning of every new year is a fresh opportunity to define strategies for success in the year ahead. Once again, I look forward to discussing the state of the retail industry with clients and influencers at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF’s) BIG Show when it kicks off this weekend.

This year, IBM continues its focus on making retail smarter, enabling retailers to put their customers first. One of the most profound challenges facing retailers today is the need to allow customers to connect and shop anywhere, anyhow and anytime.

We all know that technology has driven major changes in how we browse, compare and purchase products. Shopping from mobile devices is increasing exponentially. In fact, 70 percent more consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site on Cyber Monday in 2012 than 2011, according to the IBM Digital Analytics benchmark.

To help retailers respond, IBM researchers have been working in our labs to innovate the shopping experience – both in-store and out.

Yesterday, IBM announced that it was the leading recipient ofU.S. patents in 2012, marking the company’s 20th consecutive year as the world’s most inventive company. IBM’s 2012 patents include innovations that will enable fundamental advancements in retail, including:

  • A patent for product identification that would enable a user to find out more details about a product using a photo and whatever information they can provide. For example, if a consumer sees a photo of a couch they like in an online article on decorating ideas, they could use the technology found in this patent to learn what retailer it’s from and if it’s available for purchase.
  • A patent for 3D image streaming would enable a retailer to create a more personalized shopping experience for its customers in the store by capturing 3D movement of the consumer as they navigate through the establishment and identifying behavior in response to stimulus.
  • A patent to enable two people to simultaneously browse and shop the same web pages. For example, let’s say a user finds an article or description of a product or service they like and copies it. A server detects the copy operation and displays an invitation to co-browse the page with a friend of the user. The user copies the invitation and pastes it in an e-mail to the friend. The friend opens the mail and joins the browsing session. After that, they can go through the web page sharing the same views.

IBM has a long history of innovating how retailers work. For example, a patent awarded IBM in 1994 formed a cornerstone of e-commerce as we know it, helping automate the online ordering process. IBM researchers also broke new ground by developing the first point-of-sale system, the barcode and the first magnetic stripe technology used for credit cards.

Continued innovation is essential as retailers evolve to meet the needs of the empowered consumer. The path-to-purchase has become disconnected and complex due to a variety of factors including social media and device explosion. In response, smarter retailers must adopt a customer-centric approach across the organization, look beyond traditional markets for growth and drive down costs while increasing operational efficiency.

I can’t wait to discuss this further at NRF. You can join the discussion on twitter with #IBMNRF and #smarterretail.

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