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The best strategy in building a platform (together)


Over the coming decades, the main focus for companies will be on building platforms. International speaker Rik Vera wrote a book on how companies can work collectively towards building those platforms.

The talk in this locale is increasingly about platforms, as major brands owe their growth to them, and, according to most sources, that's only going to expand. Platforms are an online location where the demand of customers is key, and where providers answer that demand collectively. It's best to always to illustrate this through an example, and it's not all that complicated as it happens: Spotify is of course a platform, and at its roots is the demand by users for audio, and musicians, producers and podcast makers collectively provide the required content.

In the back of your mind, as a marketer, you know that you have to take people's demands as a starting point, and that you have to work collectively to meet that demand, plus the fact that data plays a crucial role in optimally serving the consumer. What you don't read about much yet, however, is how exactly to handle that. Fortunately, Rik Vera, an international keynote speaker, has written a pretty good book on the subject: 'The Guide to the Ecosystem Economy'. If you browse through the pages, you'll come across a few pointers on how to approach that as a brand or company:

1. Basic question
The basic question you should keep in mind all the time when starting to work with an ecosystem is: what would people miss out on if they didn't have that ecosystem? In the case of Spotify of course, it's about being able to get music at any time, and so you can apply that same question to any platform. What if, for example, a good app was available for arranging a babysitter? Could such an app really become an indispensable thing? Of course you would have to look at it from all angles; which people would like to have such a service, how would they arrange that in the current circumstances, and can it be improved upon?

You need to connect the ecoystem with the outside world, which in many cases of course involves an app. Such an app connects the users with the providers; it has to work both ways. It's important that it's slick in terms of design, so it will be easy to use for consumers. With a few simple clicks, parents should be able to check which babysitting mothers and fathers are active in their region. There should also be reviews for the quality as well as a clear overview of the prices. And is the babysitting student actually available at the time you're planning to go out?

3. The infrastructure's already in place
Spotify is all about the music and podcasts. Who actually owns the copyright, and what has already been agreed upon in that regard? Of course, there are already many babysitting centres in the Netherlands, and who are all the people they are working with? It's important for all options to be utilised collectively, and that you are all prepared to do one another a favour. ''If everyone tries to create their own balcony garden, it does not optimise the output of all the square meters,'' says Vera. You have to be prepared to do something for each other.

4. Data/sensors
That's the basis of everything, according to Vera. ''The whole ecosystem must be in tune with the outside world, and feed the outside world just as the outside world feeds it.'' That's how things go of course: the better the data quality, the more finely tuned the manner in which the demand of the app users can be met. If the creators over at Spotify know there's a huge demand for songs that are high in the various charts, then it makes sense for them to respond accordingly. In the case of the babysitters, as a service provider, you need to know in which locations the demand for good babysitters is the highest, so that you can look for companies that already have a lot of availability in that area. According to Vera, it is especially important that it is an on-going process; you have to collect data very broadly and on a continuous basis, so that you are constantly able to respond to it.

In the book, Vera elaborates in a very detailed manner about the consequences of the 'Ecosystem Economy'. Because, while in the past you might look at what you as a company were offering, these days you really have to take the demand into consideration. In his view, it is therefore essential that companies look much further than their company boundaries, and this new form of cooperation is highly demanding of people. Who will handle the supervision, how do you bring in people internally on the joint plans of the ecosystem, and who is actually going to foot the bill for it? That requires quite a considerable amount of innovative prowess, but he does have a point of course, as there will soon be an app to arrange for a babysitter, another one to travel across Europe without an aircraft, and an app to order a new kitchen hassle-free will also emerge at some point. As a company, it therefore pays to be well prepared. 

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