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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Abercrombie & Fitch Collaborates with IBM for 'Smarter Commerce'

Abercrombie & Fitch has its sights set on the future of commerce...  |  (image source)
On 17 January 2012, the National Retail Federation, the largest retail trade association in the world, held its annual conference in New York City. During the event, the technology and consulting corporation IBM announced that Abercrombie & Fitch is "working" with them to implement what IBM calls "smarter commerce" into A&F's direct-to-consumer operations (e.g. the online "e-commerce" business of A&F).[source 1] This is a move, in part by Abercrombie & Fitch, to further improve its customer-business relations, with "speed, efficiency, and adaptability,"[1] as it continues to grow its business in an environment in which consumer activity is becoming ever more influenced by mobile and social networking.

But what exactly is smarter commerce? It is a concept by IBM which the company developed to signify higher business practices of using collected consumer data, primarily through online activity, using newly created software, to position marketing more effectively to better meet customer shopping preferences. This would entail monitoring in real-time, using social media, "to better assess the effectiveness of new services and product offerings"[source 2] while "automating purchasing, marketing, sales, and fulfillment processes to better serve customers."[1] In effect, this would provide A&F with the ability to "continue to deliver quality merchandise, and provide a unique shopping experience that will deepen its relationship with consumers."[1]

Reportedly, Abercrombie & Fitch wants to elevate its online operations to a $1 billion dollar business by sometime in the near future and it will only achieve this by harnessing the power of modern, innovative cross-channel solutions. We no longer live in a world where the majority of interaction between a business and customer is through a brick-and-mortar store. We're becoming highly interconnected through the evolution of social networking and online activity and this is taking customer-business interaction to a new level. It is crucial for Abercrombie & Fitch to maintain an online shopping experience which satisfies and surpasses the preferences of its shoppers while also keeping track of what works and what doesn't. After all, about "2/3 of all consumers make a first purchase because of a digital experience."[source 3]

To reach its aspirations, Abercrombie has thus selected IBM's smarter commerce ingenuity. As the Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for A&F, John Deane, explained, "We require a world-class solution that will scale over time, bolster international expansion, and support cross-channel commerce. IBM's e-commerce and order management solutions meet our requirements for infrastructure, scalability, and future growth."[1]

If you've been paying attention over the past few months, you've noticed the steps the Company has been taking to further advance. Redesigned e-commerce sites for the A&F brands were launched in early-2011 to systematically improve product organization and online shopping; and a search feature was added as well as a further step. Meanwhile, the utilization of Facebook as a social marketing tool continues to reach out to customers worldwide. (Facebook plug-ins were integrated into hollisterco.com - "like" and sharing buttons for individual products - but were later removed in 2011). Furthermore, mobile websites for the brands were reintroduced in late-2011 as an improvement from the first, short-lived attempt at mobile e-commerce back in late-2009.

And it is not just Abercrombie & Fitch getting uplifts. Dior, which previously managed an annoying website itself - the Dior Homme division was even more tedious - launched an updated version of dior.com, in late-2011, which encompasses all of its divisions in one concise and beautifully navigable site which brings forth an online experience with the company that puts its previous version to shame. Louis Vuitton, which, too, recently updated its website (also a much appreciated improvement), and created its official Facebook page, is getting ready to launch, for the first time, its mobile site. The point is that companies are aware of the power that modern social, online, and mobile technology now have in retail in the 21st century as important nodes of commerce.

Abercrombie & Fitch, a specialty retailer and a global leader in its respective industry, is keeping up with the changing times. Indeed, these have been challenging years (with the Great Recession and what not), but the Company has proved capable of adapting and surviving. Re-established as a fashion retailer in 1992, Abercrombie & Fitch has seen much change in the industry and has grown considerably since...it's only just begun. And this collaboration with IBM will continue secure a prosperous future for the ever-expanding, worldwide A&F Empire! Cheers to that!
Stay FIERCE!