Customers have never been more fickle and less brand loyal than today. A single bad experience is enough to instantly lose a customer with social media enabling further damages to the company. More than ever in the digital age, brands need to deliver a fulfilling experience that solves issues in a satisfying way. Customers want their interaction with a brand to solve their problem, almost magically, while giving them complete control. Choice and experience are the name of the game, as solutions tailored to their preferences are being offered to consumers, without them even having to search.
Today, with a growing number of options to choose from, and new players consistently entering almost every market, customers have the luxury of opting for a service provider that gives them the best personalized service. This makes it imperative for organizations to understand what the consumer requires. Adapting themselves to the ever evolving needs and demands of consumers becomes key, should they wish to stay relevant and in business.
As consumer attitudes shift, the way organizations operate is undergoing a tremendous evolution. While products are important, more emphasis is currently being laid on the services provided and consumers’ overall experience. This change in perspective is revolutionizing organizations’ business models and is bringing companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Alibaba and PayPal among others to the forefront. Organizations are shifting focus from owning and selling commodities & infrastructure to problem solving.
This metamorphosis has not only fed consumers with what they want but cleverly created a demand for unique customer experiences that offer “three-click solutions” to customer issues. Brands now focus on ensuring their customer satisfaction doesn’t waver; consumers tend to be less brand loyal, unless they are provided with an outstanding customer experience which they are unable to find anywhere else.
In the race to provide best consumer experience, old organizations that have solidly been functioning with a vertical hierarchy structure are now dwindling. Multiple distribution layers filter and lessen their understanding of what consumers want. This in turn ends up impacting their ability to provide consumers with an experience that would strengthen their position within the consumers’ mindset.
With the rise of technology, newer non-traditional players have also entered the market, focused on the end experience being provided. Disruption is not limited to fintechs and tech giants: as digital technology is permeating through all sectors, it is disrupting the way customers consume the commodity and ensuring their demands are met at all levels of interaction with the brand.
Let them take control
The underlying reason behind the meteoric rise of horizontal organizations is that they give consumers a lot more choice, effectively giving them control of their destiny. Once the customer feels like the brand understands what they want, their faith in the brand skyrockets making them loyal customers and brand ambassadors.
Amazon is the perfect example that revolutionized the way consumers digest content. By closely analyzing what each customer prefers, they were able to add value and share recommendations with customers. Adding a payment and delivery partner further made purchasing from them easier and the element of convenience made consumers go back to them again. Locking the chain of supply and demand and winning customers with the shopping experience, Amazon has managed to build a database big enough to venture into the financial sector with ease; giving competition to established banks owing to consumers’ brand loyalty.
Vertical organizations need to shift sole focus from commodity and move towards improving the quality of customer experience. Platforms coming together to serve specific consumer needs and providing excellent service as each partner brings a specialty, adds to the brand’s image. It is the best way to increase customer retention and growth in a digital world where customers are loyal to an experience, not necessarily a brand.
Newer brands however, realize the value of customer experience and now it is becoming an indispensable part of their business model. They are conscious that helping consumers get what they want will only help in strengthening their connection with the brand.
It is not possible for a single organization to be able to ‘manufacture’ every single service or product that is needed to solve a customer problem – further compounded by the very changing needs of the customer. Organizations can solve this conundrum by partnering – within or across industries – hence building an ecosystem. This combined ecosystem, then, can achieve the desired result and deliver a seamless customer experience, including all products and services that the customer is looking for.
This forms the essence of platformification – a single platform that solves a specific problem for a customer – irrespective of the multiple components that are needed to put together a solution that solves the specific problem. The owner of the platform will bring together an ecosystem of multiple partners and curate the ecosystem for a successful delivery of the end customer journey.
Uber currently is an apt example of the way brands should interact with their consumers. While the original purpose of the customer is to reach from point A to B, they ensured that once a customer books a cab with them, they don’t have to worry about other elements involved like navigation, payments etc. among others. Uber brought in new partners on board to help them specifically in services the partners specialize in. Collaborating with partners, delegating operations and creating a customized service for consumers helped them in creating a platform which instantly appealed to the consumers. As their customer base strengthened and they collected more and more data about their consumers’ preferences, their ability to narrow down on what consumers want grew stronger. This helped them in venturing into other ventures like Uber eats, Uber business, Uber health among others. Without owning a single ‘asset’ (read cabs) they were able to provide their consumers with the easiest travel solution, and revolutionized the transport industry. By owning the consumer experience and collecting consumer data, Uber got the confidence to increase their customer offerings.
Striking the right balance
However, sustaining a business model where consumers are the only important stakeholder cannot suffice. The ecosystem that provides customized service to each consumer also has multiple business partners that do their bit to ensure customers’ user experience is flawless.
To succeed though, brands need to strike the right balance between its users and these partners. Seamlessly curating the overall partner experience becomes as important as the end consumer experience. Because, as more and more brands create their own ecosystems, it won’t just be brands but ecosystems connecting with ecosystems to create a web of services for consumers to avail.
Welcome to the world of Platforms!