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IBM launches online marketing service

IBM has combined a number of its online marketing software programs into a unified service, called the IBM Marketing Center.

IBM has designed the service, an IBM Smarter Commerce offering, for organizations to outsource their online marketing efforts, eliminating the need to purchase and stitch together new marketing software and hire an IT team to manage it. The service provides the ability to select target customers for a product campaign, to design an email solicitation or Web page, as well as analyze the results of how many people responded to these marketing efforts.

"Customers can do all this today, but they have to wire together a whole disparate set of systems," said Craig Hayman, IBM general manager of industry solutions. The marketing center combines two operations that are usually run by different sets of software, the software that manages email and Web-based promotional offers, and the software that analyzes the results. Combining these operations allows managers to test new marketing campaigns and quickly assess their success. "We have pulled that together into one service that runs in the cloud," Hayman said.

The service uses a number of different technologies from companies that IBM has recently acquired. In 2010, IBM acquired Coremetrics, a firm that provided a commerce-focused Web analytics service. Also that year, IBM purchased online marketing software provider Unica.

Organizations are charged on the basis of how many campaigns they run and how many users they reach. "Users just pay for what they consume. There are no upfront capital costs," Hayman said.

IBM announced this new service at its Smarter Commerce Global Summit conference, being held this week in Orlando. At the conference, the company also announced a new line of business process outsourcing (BPO) services from its Global Process Services group. The BPO service, called the Smarter Commerce Managed Services, is specifically aimed at running multi-channel marketing efforts. The company has also released the IBM Smarter Commerce Workbench, an asset repository of tools and best practices documentation designed for getting the most from IBM's commerce offerings.

IBM software and services are used to analyze related data from more than $100 billion in commerce transactions a year, IBM estimates. The company counts Bank of America, ConocoPhillips, Expedia, Lenovo, the Norwegian Cruise Line, Staples, and Urban Outfitters as customers. IBM announced that RadioShack will work with IBM to help personalize customer experiences at RadioShack's 4,700 stores.

At the conference, IBM also released the results of a 2011 survey of 1,700 chief marketing officers (CMOs). It found that 82 percent CMOs plan to increase their use of social media in the years to come. At this time, however, only 26 percent of CMOs currently track blogs to help shape their marketing efforts. About 42 percent track third party reviews and 48 percent are tracking consumer reviews.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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