April 08, 2005 07:00 ET

IBM Software Helps Manufacturers and Retailers Speed Product Introductions

Global Businesses Use IBM's Product Information Management Software to Provide United Product, Pricing, and Promotional Information and Give Shoppers Better Service on Demand

SOMERS, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 8, 2005 -- IBM today announced significant enhancements to its product information management software that will help manufacturers and retailers speed new products to market, improve business relationships and enhance consumer shopping experiences.

IBM is delivering pre-packaged integration between a trio of IBM software products including IBM's product information management software, IBM WebSphere Product Center, IBM WebSphere Commerce and IBM WebSphere Portal. Available today with IBM WebSphere Product Center V5.2, this is the industry's first offering to combine product information management software with out-of-the-box connections to commerce and portal solutions.

Global organizations across multiple industries such as retail, automotive, industrial manufacturing, electronics, consumer goods manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, entertainment and financial services are using product information management software. Some of IBM's global customers who are currently using IBM WebSphere Product Center include AlphaPurchase, Corporate Express, Conforama, El Corte Ingles, Unilever, and West Marine.

According to a recent Yankee Group analysis, product information management is yielding a 25 percent improvement in top and bottom-line benefits for enterprises. In addition, 63% of survey respondents that implemented product information management found that they increased sales resulting from an improved relationship with retailers.

West Marine is a $650 million retailer of boating supplies and is the largest boating supply company in North America. West Marine is using IBM WebSphere Product Center to eliminate redundant manual data entry into multiple databases, present richer product information to all sales channels -- including 374 retail stores, a sales catalogue and a Website -- and bring products to market faster. The company plans to use IBM WebSphere Portal to enable its more than 700 suppliers to enter new product information, view inventory and sales for their products, and collaborate on forecasting and replenishment. The company is also using WebSphere Commerce to manage its West Marine and BoatUS e-commerce sites which are integrated with the retail stores for a seamless, multi-channel customer experience.

"Setting a strong technology foundation with product information management and portal software is integral to the success of new product introductions," said Larry Smith, Senior Vice President Planning and Replenishment, West Marine. "We look to IBM WebSphere Product Center and IBM WebSphere Portal to help us expand our strong collaboration with suppliers, bring new products to market faster, and provide richer information to all sales channels to empower our employees and customers."

In the Forrester Wave report titled Product Information Management Leaders Emerge, Forrester Research, Inc., December, 2004 by Erica Rugullies, IBM 'earned the highest scores of all [product information management] vendors for both strategy and market presence.'

The Connection between IBM WebSphere Product Center and IBM WebSphere Portal

The combination of WebSphere Portal and WebSphere Product Center allows for the display and sharing of specific information, based on the user's needs, through an intuitive interface. By combining IBM WebSphere Product Center and IBM WebSphere Portal, companies can make comprehensive product information -- such as descriptions, images, packaging, promotions and prices -- available to trading partners, employees and customers inexpensively and with a high degree of security.

The product information is captured and displayed through IBM WebSphere Portal and resides in a central repository found in IBM WebSphere Product Center. The information can be leveraged throughout the company's enterprise and at all customer touch-points in a fast, accurate and efficient manner.

Currently, most companies exchange this information manually, which results in duplication, errors and wasted time. By automating this sharing of information via IBM WebSphere Portal, critical new product information can be delivered quickly and accurately.

For example:

--  Retailers can enable their suppliers to manage new and changing
    information about their own products quickly and as often as needed,
    without manual intervention.
--  A manufacturer can make comprehensive information about its products
    available to its employees for training and to provide better customer
--  An automotive parts dealer can deliver comprehensive product
    information directly to customers via a kiosk in the store.

On the retail floor, shoppers often question retail employees for advice and information about new items such as TVs or digital cameras. Retailers that use IBM WebSphere Product Center and IBM WebSphere Portal software can give their employees the ability to consult a portal on the retail floor and within seconds gain access to complete and accurate information about the products. Employees gain confidence as they become more familiar with their products and customers make informed buying decisions, dramatically increasing sales and satisfaction while decreasing returns.

Revolutionizing Merchandising with IBM WebSphere Product Center and IBM WebSphere Commerce

The combination of IBM WebSphere Product Center and IBM WebSphere Commerce helps businesses deliver compelling information to consumers via both e-commerce Websites and traditional brick and mortar sales channels. With the two products:

--  Manufacturers and retailers can jump-start their e-commerce
    initiatives, introduce new products faster, deliver richer, more accurate
    information to consumers, and create new marketing campaigns across both
    online and brick and mortar sales channels faster and more effectively.
--  Merchandisers can spend more time doing merchandizing and less time
    inputting data so campaigns can be more timely and more targeted, and
    product, promotional and pricing information will be consistent across all
    of the company's sales channels.

For example, a multi-channel retailer with the combined solution of IBM WebSphere Product Center and IBM WebSphere Commerce can work on product assortment and pricing for upcoming sales events such as Mother's day or a Memorial Day promotion. Web merchandisers can preview any changes specific to the event such as price discounts, new marketing messages and images on the web store front without affecting pre-event assortment, pricing or promotion. Using IBM WebSphere Product Center, the retailer can keep the promotional pricing and marketing messages consistent across all sales channels -- stores, print catalog and web.

Part of IBM's Solution for RFID

The new release of IBM WebSphere Product Center contains significant new security and web-services features designed to support RFID data interchange between business partners. IBM WebSphere Product Center can aggregate information from IBM WebSphere RFID Premises Server and IBM WebSphere RFID Device Infrastructure based devices located in retail stores, distribution centers, or manufacturing sites.

WebSphere Product Center can combine RFID information with detailed product information to give retailers and manufacturers a new level of visibility to manage products across their supply chain. Manufacturers and retailers can collaborate more effectively to reduce out of stocks and dramatically increase the effectiveness of promotions and new product introductions resulting in enhanced customer satisfaction, improved sales, and better financial results.

"In just about every industry -- from electronics to automotive to retail to industrial manufacturing -- companies are using product information management software to ease the pressures and challenges of managing product information, collaborate with trading partners, and introduce new products to market," said Dan Druker, director of product information management, IBM. "Our customers appreciate having access to product information on demand and are enjoying positive returns on investment from their product information management initiatives. Many are also ramping up to use IBM WebSphere Product Center as they expand into areas such as RFID and global data synchronization."

About IBM Software

IBM is the world's largest information technology company, with more than 80 years of leadership in helping businesses innovate. IBM Software offers a wide range of middleware and operating systems for all types of computing platforms, allowing customers to take full advantage of the on demand era. The fastest way to get more information about IBM software is through the IBM Software home page at

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