Ecosystem Platforms vs. Owning the Customer
Ecosystem Platforms vs. Owning the Customer

Ecosystem Platforms vs. Owning the Customer

Ecosystem Platforms vs. Owning the Customer

As some may know, I spent 6-weeks traveling in Canada and the U.S. from mid-May.. part business and plenty of pleasure. The OCED Conference in Toronto was my original trigger to make that trip – huge thanks to great folks at Mobile Institute for their efforts to organize activities there, taking center stage at the legendary Second City venue – fabled SCTV home of John Canday, Rick Moranis and Martin Short! I also camped-out in the Valley with the debut Momentum teams, fantastic job by Mario & his crew, while anchored at RocketSpace – full props to all there – a pleasure to meet so many awesome people along the way, C100 and DealMaker Media to name a few, and enjoyed rubbing elbows at the MIT Mobile Summit.

Serendipity scheduled meets with several govt. of Alberta departments, talking disaster measures and hard 3.11 lessons from here in Japan, among other topics, just before their own State of Emergency defined the importance of such advanced preparations. I picked an ‘interesting’ week to visit Banff. Naturally it was the in-person time spent with industry friends and family that was most valuable. Over-all it was a worthwhile adventure and good learning experience; it’s always useful to get out of the routine to gain some fresh perspective.

While it would be easy to drill down on any of the above segments, here’s a key take away; the markets overseas are in the late mobile miracle honeymoon phase = such bliss! That much was clear from the get-go, no need to jump on a plane, but these two articles, prompted the following thoughts and comments here.

Ecosystem Platforms vs. Owning the Customer

Let’s take a quick step back first to note my presentation at the recent Digital Media Asia event. While covering the Japan market, as requested, it actually focused on a niggly question for the several hundred attending delegates. Simply put: the legacy approach of their printing industry charged a cover price, say $1 for the daily newspaper, which did not cover the fixed cost of landing that product on the customers lap. The internet came along and “other people” took the PL risk to lay twisted copper and build base stations, while their “customers” paid the monthly connection fees – and – purchased hardware required to render all those digital bytes. Essentially an information highway Freeway, with near Zero Cost compared to hard copy production and distribution, provided an awesome opportunity to deliver and extract value.. yet they struggle with approaches like Paywall and Metered freemium models. Considering the duplex nature of digital communication and the obvious fact that rich media could be added to the product offering = they should be ‘crushing’ it..!?! (yaa.. I picked-up some valley vibes).

The Japanese business model tends to be more inclusive between verticals, each bringing their own strengths to the table while respecting others contributions as required to provide an over-all best service to the end user. Of course that’s simplistic, and to be sure there is plenty of competitive maneuvering behind the scenes, but in the end everyone eats – or else the chain breaks and it falls apart.

Here’s a “what-if” structure, based on key players position, for the mobile media model.

The publishers’ main position is recurring content of authority, powered by ad. revenue. Their brand clients need distribution together with metrics which demonstrate actual ROI while the ‘customers’ just want seemingly effortless access to useful info. and perhaps the opportunity to get a better deal on something they might, specifically, be interested in buying.. fair enough.

Now, what do individual users want.. hmm.. maybe good idea would be to ask them! There was a great example of how this would work here from waaay back in the day = Nooper! A Free opt-in email Alerts platform that allowed folks to set push requests of self-selected contents, for example; every morning at 8am send my daily horoscope, winning lotto numbers and fav. sports team news, at lunch offer coupons for place to eat near my office (plus stock tips or tech reviews.. plenty of bolt-on ad. potential), at 6pm send evening live event and movie suggestions – on Fridays suggest weekend activities for the kids and by the way.. I’m interested ‘anytime’ in new listings for a used BMW and flight deals to Bali.

The scenario described above is not simply ‘permission’.. it’s (uggh) Engagement. This profile, basically an .xml file which could be edited by the user at anytime, provides the foundation for segmentation: that contact is a Taurus who follows the Yankees, works in this area, prefers eating Italian, has kids and is shopping for a sports car and beach vacation. So, might suggest you Don’t send perfume ads.. unless they decided to attend a live event (as requested) held by a cosmetics company. As an aside, how old are those kids.. maybe diapers are no longer required but summer camp suggestions might be useful. The whole point of this approach being.. Relevance.

Here’s a simple example, from the newspapers glory days gone by, coupons. Imagine the opt-in clients, who have Free & Easy access to whatever daily content is offered, also request a weekend round-up of discounts for their trip to the grocery store. Providing a digital coupon complete with image of dedicated UPC code, which most existing infra is already capable of scanning, and everyone wins.

To follow the so-called Zero Moment of Truth; brands would most certainly rather have their paid message delivered to an actual potential customer. Digital can provide proof to justify that spend, beyond page views and clicks. The call to action, therefore transaction, should be not only relevant but ideally identified as desired.. increasing the odds the offer will be sold. To be blunt: a good recipe takes multiple ingredients, let them eat cake.. ala mode, with a cherry on top.. and some sprinkles too = they will be So Happy to post it for their friends!

Now, some special sauce; a major buzz-word over the last while is o2o = Online to Offline. Yes, we live in both a digital and physical world, how to combine the best of both? From our experience in Japan there is one more important partner that would be ‘rather helpful’ in the above mix = Telco. Indeed, there has been plenty of chatter overseas about ‘dumb-pipes’ so lets enable their position as a trusted source of billing, for potential premium services, perhaps combined with privacy and – importantly – location in this mix. While we have seen several domestic plays in this respect over the years, Shufoo for example, the operators here are increasingly active too.

To be fair.. there have been efforts overseas that resemble a profiled platform free hook for brand interaction approach, Blyk comes to mind = amazing click rates, and now mega SNS players like FaceBook and Twitter, not to mention in-app ads, are really leaning into the space as well. However, there remains a viable window of opportunity for established verticals to leverage their respective positions going forward.. or the CraigsList experience will be repeated with far more dire consequences.

The fun has just begun, but it should be obvious to those with (besieged) vested interest that a well-tuned ecosystem model considers mutual strength, therefore combined opportunities, of partnerships that address the needs of a customer rather than fighting to the death of trying to ‘own’ the entire value-chain. Harvard business 101: would you rather have a slice of the watermelon or the whole grape? As the saying goes: water will always find a way, usually along the path of least resistance, be prepared for the floods.

Lars Cosh-Ishii.

Update: aaand along comes Kiip via Digital Garage rolling-out with Yahoo Japan!