In Time For The Holiday Shopping Season, IBM Upgrades E-Commerce Software For Retailers

Tis’ the season for holiday shopping and many of the tech giants are already staking their claim in the e-commerce industry. Google recently launched Google Commerce, its hosted search offering for online retailers. Today, IBM is announcing a significant upgrade to WebSphere Commerce, Big Blue’s software platform framework for e-commerce.

WebSphere Commerce is a integrated software package that handles online storefronts, merchandising, operational reports, shopping cart technology, search, payments, analytics and also provides developer tools. It operates the front and back end of e-commerce operations for Sears, Vineyard Vines, Staples and other retailers.

The new version of the software now helps e-retailers create mobile-optimized sites that match the look and feel of retailer’s web sites. The software can create online stores accessible via mobile phones that let consumers browse, conduct side-by-side product comparisons, view store locations, check inventory availability and complete the purchase.

Shoppers can even place orders online and pick up their merchandise at the closest store – which can be automatically mapped out for them on their mobile phone. Retailers will also be able to deliver personalized brand campaigns, coupons and promotions to a customer’s mobile device through text messages or e-mail.

IBM highlights emerging markets, like China and India, as optimal regions where advanced e-commerce mobile sites will be popular among consumers. Big Blue says that because broadband access remains difficult in many areas, hand-held devices are often the only means of access to the Web.

Thew new version of Websphere Commerce leverages social networks by bringing brand and product discussions that are taking place on external sites back to the retailer’s site. For example, a consumer’s product review or blog post with a link back to the retailers’ site can automatically be sent to Facebook or other social networking sites. IBM is also adding the capability of consumers to share ratings and reviews that include rich media content, like photo, video or audio files.

IBM’s new software also provides intuitive marketing tools that will evaluate customer buying behaviors and respond by delivering targeted promotions or other content. For example, if an online buyer abandons a sale before checkout, a coupon or other incentive could be immediately forwarded to the shopper’s mobile device to help revive the transaction.