When I was approached by IBM to be a part of this campaign, I honestly had to stop and ask what "smarter commerce" was. Because I flat out had no idea. And the more I think about it, I am realizing that there really is no one definition.

(Image courtesy of NYC Recessionista)

For me, there are a few things that add up to smarter commerce for me (in no particular order):

1. Affordable and competitive prices (hello!).
As a recessionista, I am always comparing prices between my favorite stores. I want to save on basics, but I also want to be able to purchase special pieces every once in a while that don't completely break the bank.

2. Simple discounts and coupons.
And if a retailer is having a sale, I don't want to have to sacrifice my first-born or solve an algebra equation to be able to use the coupons or discount codes. I want them to be easy, posted everywhere (I'm looking at you, Facebook!), and apply to more than three pieces in the store.

3. An easy -- and pleasant -- shopping experience, whether it's in store ... 
When I walk into a store, I don't want to immediately feel stressed out when I walk in. I want staff to greet me, but not hover while I shop. I want the fitting rooms to be spacious and clean. And I want the lines and the checkout process to be organized.

... or online. 
When I go to a retailer's website, I don't want to have to employ a search party to find the items I'm looking for. I want the categories to be really neat and make sense. I don't want to see items come up in a product search, only to click on them and find out they're actually sold out. I want to go through the whole shopping experience without the site freezing, without items mysteriously disappearing from my cart, and with common sense updates on the status of my order.

4. Good customer service.
If your air conditioning is broken in your store, I love it when your staff hands out bottles of water to shoppers (more on that later). If you're sold out of something, I love it when you volunteer to call other stores in the city to see if they have it in stock. And if I'm returning something with the tags still on but no receipt, I love it when you give me a merchandise credit without giving me a hard time.

5. Quality products.
There are pieces of clothing that I've had for 15 years that are still in great condition ... and then there are things I've purchased and washed once, only to have them fade, pill or grow gaping holes in the neck / armpit / hem.

And as consumers, there are a few things that we need to remember:

It's a great time to be a customer right now … because thanks to technology informing us and empowering us, the customers have all the power!

Companies should be making an effort to respond to you whenever, however and wherever customers contact them with a question or an issue.

More customers are shopping on the web, via mobile and via the socials than ever before ... which means that companies should be working to provide them with better service there, too.

Companies should be making all of their different channels user-friendly, seamless and consistent.

Customers shouldn't be afraid to ask companies for what they want.

So ... what does smarter commerce mean to you? What do you love -- and hate -- most about shopping?

I can't wait to hear from all of you!

Editor's Note:  This post is part of a series I have in the works, all designed to share my personal story around the role technology and social media play in our lives as part of the IBM Smarter Commerce  campaign. So, when you see posts about the project (they'll all be tagged #MySmarterCommerce), please do jump right into the conversation in the comments and share your opinions! IBM will be following along in real time over the next 30 days, featuring the best contributions by you and me, and the best comments will win $50 gift cards from IBM just for joining the conversation.

PS -  In the interest of full disclosure and just plain old honesty, I have been invited by IBM to share my honest thoughts and experiences around Smarter Commerce, and as part of this collaboration, IBM may provide me with product, access, content or other forms of remuneration.  All opinions are expressly my own. #spon