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It’s not about big data, but big understanding

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I write this week’s editors comment 36,000 feet above the Atlantic ocean, on an iPad connected to the web on my way back from IBM’s Smarter Commerce Summit in Tampa in Florida. I am not sure what I am more excited about: some of the things I saw there or the fact that I am connected to the web on plane?

But either way, both the event and the in-flight tech both cement mobile’s place in modern life. IBM’s thrust at this years event was ‘moments matter’ – a somewhat over used slogan this week (1694 mentions in two days I counted), but it showcases how even Big Blue is moving from just flogging gear that makes you money to flogging you gear that delivers outcomes for consumers (and makes you money).

Seriously, though, the company has adopted the stance of trying to pull everything together to deliver the now de facto ‘holistic view of the customer’ and help hit them with context and location sensitive marketing. Its all about training the fire hose of data where you want it to point. Not really, it is…

While it’s easy to pick apart the business jingoism that surrounded the launch of its ExperienceOne platform that does all this (though at what cost, no one would say) and while it is really hard to pick through that same jingoism, IBM is certainly now tapping into what all good and innovative omni-channel marketers and retailers know: you have to be everywhere and be consistent.

And the key to this is of course mobile devices. But while the event was long on hoopla (rock bands, America’s got talent winning dancers, five super sized screens of data – did you know that the internet had generated 921,000 tons of carbon in the first eight hours of 13 May? – and some totally cer-azy psychological profiling from Sally Hogshead) there was a modicum of sense about how retailers can now know so much about consumers that marketing and sales are pretty much the same thing. And of course IBM is there to provide the tech to make it happen.

The one truism that did come out the event was the important lesson: its not about big data, it is about big understanding.

The only real question was that now that everyone gets this, can IBM muscle in and make it happen at a price that all but the supermassive retailers can afford. I am still awaiting an answer.

And talking of innovation, the shortlists for the Internet Retailing Awards are in – and what a great list it is, showcasing not just some of the big names who often lead the field in innovation, but some really interesting niche and off the wall retailers too.

Check out the list:

Innovation – Argos, House of Fraser, Marks and Spencer, Tesco

Omni – Argos, Evans Cycles, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Waitrose

Mobile – Free People, House of Fraser, Shop Direct Group

Capability – Amazon, Argos, John Lewis

Customer – ASOS, Cult Pens, John Lewis, Lovehoney, Ocado

IRIS – Argos, B&Q, Burberry, House of Fraser, Thomson (TUI)

International – ASOS, Mothercare, Puma, RS Components, Wiggle

Brand – Boden, Graze, Lego,, Hungryhouse, Notonthehighstreet

Service – Dressipi, eBay, Etsy

Market Entry –, Lululemon, MissGuided

And The Internet Retailing Award sponsored by Venda is chosen by you, our readers. All shortlisted retailers are eligible.

Enter your vote here.

Or tell us who you want to win the Internet Retailing Award by tweeting us your vote to @etail with #thewinners.

To find out more and to book your place at the Awards click here

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