IBM/Ogilvy Partnership Signals Tech Can't Do It Alone in E-Commerce


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IBM's partnership with Ogilvy & Mather will combine creative and technology skills for e-commerce initiatives. Partnerships like this target companies trying to unite marketing and technology to improve customer experiences.

News Analysis


On 6 September 2012, marketing agency Ogilvy & Mather and IBM announced an expanded partnership for e-commerce. The partners will offer e-commerce services and technology. Ogilvy's eCommerce@Ogilvy practice will provide CRM and commerce services while IBM will bring technology from its Smarter Commerce portfolio, such as its Unica, Coremetrics, Tealeaf and WebSphere Commerce or Commerce on Cloud offerings.


This partnership will benefit IBM and Ogilvy customers incrementally, but it says much more about how vendors will deliver e-commerce solutions focused on the customer experience. Many companies have strong infrastructure and technology skills to support commerce websites, but they lack the marketing and creative skills needed to build a compelling customer experience. This problem occurs particularly in high-growth e-commerce areas such as:

  • Branded manufacturing

  • Distribution and wholesaling

  • Business-to-business e-commerce

Thus, enterprises turn to digital agencies such as Ogilvy for help. In turn, these agencies realize that the creative front-end requirements need to mesh with all the back-end technologies needed to provide a great experience for customers. They seek out partnerships with IT vendors so that they can create integrated e-commerce solutions.

This partnership gives IBM access to additional creative agency skills (beyond those in IBM Interactive), ranging from ideation and customer journey mapping to the look and feel of the website. Ogilvy becomes the first agency to contribute to the "market" pillar in IBM's four-pillar Smarter Commerce initiative:

  • Buy

  • Market

  • Sell

  • Service

This is not an exclusive partnership for either company, and IBM has partnered with other agencies in the other three areas.

These kinds of creative/technology partnerships will become more common because:

  • E-commerce ranks no, 3 among CEOs' most important five-year technology investments (see "CEO Survey 2012: The Year of Living Hesitantly" ).

  • CIOs increasingly realize they need to work with the chief marketing officer, and they welcome solutions delivered by trusted partners on the creative and technology sides.

  • IT vendors see the need to partner with creative agencies to deliver credible solutions.


IBM Smarter Commerce customers:

  • If you need help to improve the customer experience for your website, investigate the combined IBM/Ogilvy solution along with offerings from other agencies.

  • If you use WebSphere Commerce and have one relationship for creative work and one for technical implementation, evaluate Ogilvy for future projects, as the integration between the creative and infrastructure sides may offer advantages.

Enterprises needing end-to-end e-commerce:

  • Investigate partnerships between digital marketing agencies and IT vendors. They will offer more complete, better-integrated solutions than either type of provider does alone.

  • Do not look for a complete e-commerce solution from a single vendor or even partnership. E-commerce initiatives span many disciplines, so you may need other providers to help you with, for example, business strategy or managed services to run your technology.

  • Nevertheless, evaluate providers that can help you reduce the number of vendors you have to manage.

Recommended Reading

Some documents may not be available as part of your current Gartner subscription.

  • "IBM Acquires TeaLeaf to Help Understand the Digital Customer Experience" — The acquisition by IBM is one of numerous recent acquisitions as the company looks to transform its position as a marketing CRM vendor focused on analytics. By Jim Davies and Bill Gassman

  • "Magic Quadrant for E-Commerce" — B2B organizations are being asked to be more consumer-like with their Web experiences for their retail and wholesale customers, while B2C organizations continue to vie to capture the consumer's interest for first-time and return business. By Gene Alvarez and others

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