Software vendors as data vendors - How will convergence, interplay & privacy make a difference?

Last week, we saw Microsoft announcing the acquisition of Linked-In for US $ 26.2 billion. With the acquisition of Linked-In, Microsoft now has access to over 400 million accurate profiles of professionals from Linked-In across the world. Over the last year or two, I have been seeing this trend where large software vendors like Salesforce.com acquiring Jigsaw and Oracle acquiring Blue Kai, who predominantly own data. So, this got me to think, what are the implications one can expect or must see over the next few years with these kind of trends?

Meanwhile, I was also reading an interesting article written by Sangeet Paul Choudhary in his blog, where it is mentioned how Linked-In was trying to get into the enterprise CRM space but lacked the infrastructure & tools( post written by Myk Pono) and Sangeet's view on how Microsoft can take advantage of this acquisition but lacks the understanding of network & data layers.

The key questions that came-up to me was - What does it take for a software vendor to work  & behave like a data vendor or as a platform player? Also, how can all these data seamlessly flow into Microsoft's strategy of leveraging its Enterprise CRM, Windows, Azure, gaming business etc.?

To understand & appreciate this, first we need to look at some of Google's acquisition of DoubleClick, Andriod etc. way back in 2007 & 2004 which made a huge difference to their platform strategy. As Google transformed itself from a search to an online advertising platform, many of these acquisitions made sense - with Android becoming the defacto mobile OS platform while still Microsoft was managing Nokia as a Mobile Phone company and not as a platform.This led to the death of Nokia as a mobile phone brand, as Microsoft thought of it like a licensing business(which is their DNA) more than a mobile computing platform. 

If Microsoft needs to take advantage of Linked-In's acquisition & their data, then - the transformation of Microsoft as a platform company is critical. For example,they need to look at  Office365 as a central platform or a hub is critical. This free & paid subscription based platform must leverage the 400 million Linked-In professional's data for their own personal devices & computing services- Home PCs, mobiles, gaming consoles etc. This then can change the game for Microsoft. However, if we look back at history, neither Hotmail or Nokia was leveraged to its full by Microsoft due its software vendor thinking. Microsoft will have to change its strategy & execution this time.

The next most important question was the issue of Privacy. What is the sanctity of privacy information owned by Linked-In & do the limited or full permissions that was given to Linked-In by these 400 million professionals, hold good for Microsoft too or how does Microsoft use these in its platform intelligently without diluting any of the privacy issues that may arise? For this, the permission-based sharing professional community that Linked-In nurtured, needs to thrive, without advertising as the primary revenue driver unlike other online platforms like Google, Facebook etc.

For software vendors to transform & think like data vendors, it forces, disruptive platform thinking from them. It requires a services, community, subscription & marketplace mindset with a strong interplay between them. Only time will tell if Microsoft is able to make this mindset shift but transform they must, if they need to play this game on the web for a leadership position.


Marketing in "micromoments" in a post digital world

I was reading an interesting update on Forrester Marketing 2016, where companies & marketers were asked to take cognizance of micromoments. I don't disagree fundamentally with this theory but I was thinking how do marketers prepare & adapt to this new paradigm.

One of the top questions that came to my head was - How do marketers really identify these micromoments? In an increasingly walled garden world of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon- many customers' micromoments are happening, as I write this, in different digital platforms independently. Not only that, there are ever so many billion micromoments that happen offline in a customers' life and how do marketers make sense of it?

My premise is that it is now increasingly becoming  O2O(Offline-to-Online & Vice-versa) world, marketers need to look at this very differently. Here's my view of how this should be looked at:

Intent-driven micromoments - Some digital platforms naturally fit into intent-driven micromoments. For example, Google is a great example of a digital platform where "billions of intents" are searched by customers. People don't search for a product, they search for a need.They can be searching for a home, for a restaurant, for a car, for a college education, for naming a baby to be born, comparing a product to be bought, for a holiday etc. etc. In a customer's buying cycle - the trigger, consider & search- happens here. Marketers need to find a way of dominating "intent-share" at these micromoments.

Sharing-driven micromoments - Google, as a platform, does not naturally fit into this micromoment as customers don't share their moments there. A digital platform like Facebook fits here far more beautifully & perfectly. It is not difficult to see people sharing their convocation photos during the current season, their holiday, their child's birthday, their family get-together etc. etc. Sharing-driven moments provide opportunities for marketers to blend brands with their customer's life needs and see how they can be a part of these different micromoments. Marketers need to find ways of dominating "sharing-driven moments" & align it with their brand's storytelling.

Experience-driven micromoments - Some digital platforms like Twitter, Facebook, blogs fall here as customers share their experience - good and bad - here. For example, tweeting about poor govt. services is becoming a norm and governments globally are encouraging this. The same is with product performance, customer service, product support etc. where again experiences are largely drive this micromoment and is shared with world outside.  This micromoment can be a new business opportunity for a competing brand and retention opportunity for the incumbent brand. Again, marketers need to find ways of dominating "experience-share" micromoments.

The above are largely only online micromoments but as a marketer, one needs to find offline micromoments, which they can own,  that are contextual in the households they have been bought again & again. Be it thro' embedded IoT & other "service-led" mindset transformation platforms, marketers need to find new solutions here. 

Finally, in this battle for the customer & the micromoment, the other question to be asked is, who owns the data of the micromoment & privacy related issues need to be addressed very carefully by marketers. Doc Searls, in his book talks of intent casting,  where customers play a role in sharing their intent and brands then need to play a reverse role of fulfilling the micromoment.

Managing the customer micromoment is far more complex & deep than one can think of. And marketers need to rapidly innovate to gain share of this micromoment in their customer's life thro' relevant platforms and contextual marketing.

 


Cost-to-Serve(CTS) Vs Cost-to-do-business(CTB) - Looking at it from customer's eyes!

I often hear a lot of businesses and managers talking about a metric Cost-to-Serve(CTS) - reducing cost-to-serve a customer. They continuously talk about moving customers to lower cost channels and hence reducing the cost-to-serve & improving profitability. I find this ridiculous as an independent metric measured by businesses.

Index

 

Let me explain you why:

What does Cost-to-Serve(CTS) mean?

Currently, if a business is using high cost channels, resources to service customers and hence it eats into the  profit margin of the business. Hence, the managers & leaders in the company are mandated to move customers to lower cost channels so that it is a self-serve channel for the customer and minimizes resources from the business's end.

Let me now look at it from a customer's point of view - What is Cost-to-do-business(CTB)?

I reached out to my service provider thro' the phone( a relatively lower cost channel) and spent about half hour explaining my problem to the associate on the other side of the phone. I was told that the problem will be resolved in 24 hrs and that they were transferring it to another technical team who will address it. I waited and nothing happened - no response or no resolution was in sight. I called my service provider on the phone again and this time to my horror, I had to repeat the problem all over again for another half hour. Here's one hour of a customer's time that has been wasted by the company -that's pretty precious, in my view which businesses give a damn, as it does not cost them anything.

I also emailed the problem I was facing, to put things in writing to customer service - which took me another 15 mins and then there was a spate of automated mails that were generated promising resolution within further 2 working days! Now, I had lost close to 72 hours in addition to an hour over the phone. Now, the web channel again was a low cost channel to business but it was a high cost-to-do-business for me, as a customer, as nothing was resolved. Neither, the channels were integrated to treat my problem on priority given my prior poor experience. The Cost-to-do-business with the company was too high for me, as it was eating into my time and effort - that close to 73 hrs and 15 mins( 72 hours of lost opportunity and 1 hour and 15 mins of interacting with them over different channels). How does business pay for these costs and factor for these?

Many of the financial services companies who I do business with, have asked me to move to e-statements, mobile app, online banking etc. Now, I am increasing my storage space on cloud to factor for these and storing them as if I ask for an e-statement beyond a year or so, then they charge me for it. However, none of these businesses have optimized the charges they debit to me - as earlier they were sending me all of these and providing services. Now, all my online fund transfers are charged, my POS transactions on debit card has increased but my debit card annual fees is not reduced, it is the same as I had paid couple of years back! Since, the time I moved to online & mobile banking, am not visiting their branches which saves them a lot of money as they have reduced their cost-to-serve me. The cost of doing business- CTB- with my bank has in fact increased for me - If I factor my time and transactions charges that I pay to them.

I believe there is a balancing metric that companies need to look at -which is Cost-to-do-Business(CTB) for the customer while they look at cost-to-serve metric. For my bank, if my branch visits have come down, if my ATM transactions have reduced & POS transactions have increased or my problems with my utility service provider is not resolved over phone, web channel etc. the cost-to-business in fact has increased and they must pass on the benefit.

It's time for business to think from a customer's point of view and then factor for these as customer migrate to newer channels & touch points. The cost-to-do-business(CTB), then it is to be tracked as a metric and differential value of benefits passed on to customers too.