What I like about my garden centre is, that it also has a restaurant and I can drink a cup of coffee there. Its in-house restaurant enriches my stay and my feeling of a real day out. This kind of cross-industry services to make the customer happier is of all times. Digitalization will make this a lot easier. Digitalization will make this a lot easier. For example, if you digitalize the payment function of the bank, you can integrate it as an easy-to-use element into the payment process of a supermarket. In the supermarket I now have less hassle, because I can pay with the pin.
So looking beyond the boundaries of your company and sector is not new, but it gets an extra boost when it comes to digitalization. When activities are converted into data, they are easier to combine and blend with other functions. The boundaries between branches are becoming ‘fluid’. This ‘fluidity’ makes it possible to create unique customer experiences of seamlessly integrating services. The frictionless interactions between different branches to meet my wishes and needs are called an ecosystem. This can be both physical and digital.
Too abstract? Let me give an example. Suppose I want to buy a pair of pants in a web shop. I can take all time to view all digitized trousers in all colours, sizes and brands. What I also enjoy is that the web shop ensures that my selected trousers are personally delivered to my front door via a distribution centre and parcel deliverer. Shop, distribution centre and parcel deliverer share my customer data to provide a good and fast service together. As a buyer, I activate with an mouse click an ecosystem of interactions between these different branches.
Imagine you are an ordinary company. In what way can the ‘fluidity’ of branches sectors help you to improve the life of your customers? By first doing a good research in which ecosystems you are active and what the customers actually expect (but rarely get). Which ecosystems can benefit from the assets and competencies of your company? You ignore all existing product, service and company limits. You create new products and services according to the needs by bundling, unbundling or (re) configuring them, together with partners or in co-creation with customers. This requires genuine creative and service-oriented thinking. The customer wants running shoes, or a personal record in the marathon. Are you now selling travel tickets or helping the customer explore the world?
The next step is to explore the virtual world. For example, you can enter the virtual world by using ”Internet of Things’ (IoT). IoT changes the nature of things, devices and buildings, because through sensors they are connected with the internet. This creates opportunities that transcend the traditional product boundaries and branches. Consider what is possible if buildings, bridges, cars, household appliances, machines ‘talk’ about where they are, how often they are used, assess risks and take measurements.
Thanks to digitalization you now have a whole toolbox with new possibilities to work together with other companies, even competition. For example, BMW and Mercedes have decided not only to sell cars, but to create a joint venture on mobility. If the collaboration is approved, the rivals will jointly offer services for parking, car sharing, charging stations and mobile apps. This way they want to counterbalance the success of Uber, but also respond to the declining car ownership of young motorists grown up in the sharing economy. Insurers are also active within this ecosystem of mobility. They insure cars, but now also regulate the associated breakdown assistance. They have understood that the car driver’s need is to get from A to B without problems and not the damage of the car.
A good example of looking beyond the company’s boundaries to make customers happier is Steve Jobs. For Jobs, technical innovation was inseparably linked to liberal arts and humanities. Attractiveness in design and people orientation is therefore an essential element in the success of Apple. Apple’s biggest innovation is the Apple ecosystem itself. If you have an Apple device, you can enjoy additional services such as iCloud, Apple Music and software functions such as AirDrop. Once caught in the ecosystem, you do not easily step out of it. In short, with design, value and convenience, you create customers loyalty.
As mentioned before, cross-industry activities create new ecosystems. Take the market of flexible workplaces, which has grown enormously in recent years due to the growth in the number of self-employed and start-ups. Spaces, Tribes, WeWork and the more traditional Regus focus on the ecosystem of the worker, who wants to be location-independent, productive and who wants everything practical nearby, from restaurant to meeting rooms. The digital nomads are lured with a stylish interior, internet, latte coffee, fitness and social apps. This ‘new way of working’ transforms the traditional office market and creates a new ecosystem with hotel, catering and real estate functions.
An interesting newcomer in this flex market is Edge Olympic in Amsterdam. The building has been nominated as the most sustainable office in Europe. Real estate technology company EDGE technologies, specialized in healthy, technologically innovative and energy-positive office buildings, partners here with Epicenter. That offers innovative entrepreneurs creative work environments, innovation labs, knowledge, programs and methods. Members of Epicenter include Microsoft, Google, Merck and Volvo.
The building is based on a digital infrastructure that connects everything and everyone within its walls with a single digital platform. With an app users can personalize their workplace, with the possibility to adjust the lighting and temperature and continuously measure the noise levels and air quality. As a user you leave the building healthier than you were upon entry, so to speak.
Instead of demolishing the original building, it was redeveloped, reused existing materials and introduced circular products and systems. For example, the old natural stone serves as a floor on the ground floor and the extra upper part of the building was built using a demountable wooden structure and a certified Cradle-to-Cradle façade.
Like the other flex office providers, this building offers convenience, productivity and collaboration as customer values. But it adds something to that, which we also find important as a user: the beauty of good architecture, well-being, sustainability and an innovative environment where the start-up can meet its future client. With that extra step, it makes the user more satisfied.
You too can make your customers happier by looking broader than your company. Do you want to know how your company can be distinctive in the market of the future: Look at our website or get in touch directly: Irene.vanderKrol@leapstrat.com.