Real-Time Rewards: The Gift of Customer Intelligence

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Imagine driving up to your neighborhood supermarket. You have a routine—there are the standard groceries to pick up, plus your favorite brand of candy that you have been binging on of late. What's different but again part of a pattern is that today's a Friday, when you also like to pick up some popcorn to snack on while watching a movie. Well, guess what: the computers at the store have figured out that today is "movie night" and have sent a coupon to your Smartphone which you can redeem at the store for a 50% discount on a new flavor.

Sound futuristic? It's already happening thanks to the world of advanced analytics and big data.

"Retailers are realizing that analytics and customer intelligence have become a basic requirement to compete," says Craig Hayman, general manager of Industry Solutions at IBM. "They can now use predictive analytics on customer behavior and transactions to deliver an entirely new kind of retail experience– one focused on the individual level."

Big Blue gets Hip

IBM should know, having spent an approximate $17 billion since 2005 on a range of backend and customer-facing technologies, it likes to call "smarter commerce." Eager to shed its image of being an enterprise IT company, IBM's unveiled Ask Watson, a Siri-like app on smartphones for serious conversations around product support, troubleshooting and other elements of customer service.

Ask Watson is the offspring of IBM's pioneering Watson supercomputer that captured the public imagination when it beat two Jeopardy champions. It addresses a huge market — U.S. companies spend more than $100 billion dollars on call centers, yet last year 50% of the 270 billion plus customer calls went unresolved. IBM's tests have shown that Watson can reduce the six to eight minutes of time for an average customer call by 40% as it speeds up the search for information.