Collaborative Commerce

Platform Driven Companies And The Impact Of Collaborative Commerce

This month’s Harvard Business Review focuses on the rise of businesses of all sizes using platforms instead of mere products to drive company growth.

As the debate continues over the real “sharing” behind the sharing economy, the new platform strategy boom may provide real insight into the undeniable impact that collaborative economy businesses are having on the broader global economic landscape and entrepreneurialism overall.

As often is the case, many great tips on agile innovation can be seen in smaller start up businesses and applied to larger traditional companies to help foster new growth and innovation. This has been the case with the new platform centric approach to doing business, which most definitely got its sea legs with the likes of sharing economy companies like Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit.

That said, as 2016 continues to emerge as the year the collaborative economy makes a true imprint on corporate America, some key lessons can also be learned from major companies as entrepreneurs work to adjust to the new platform driven marketplace.

If we look at GE and Microsoft working to transform and grow in size and scale by switching to platform business models instead of product centric or pipeline driven ones, the impact of collaborative commerce on broader business becomes evident.

Platform businesses that bring together producers and consumers as Uber and Airbnb do are capturing increased market share and transforming how competitive edge is achieved. Yesterday it was through product differentiation. Today it is through scale and impact.

With the iOT Predix GE platform for instance, the same ecosystem concept built around the marriage of technology and knowledge or service sharing that drives many collaborative economy models can be seen.

As GE works to go back to its industrial roots, it is using their new Predix platform to shape and define the future of the Industrial Internet. The platform, which falls under GE Digital, is being built to sit at the “intersection of people, machines, big data and analytics.” This new area of GE, recently launched as part of the company’s massive transformation, is expected to bring the company $6 billion alone in 2016.

Microsoft is also using a platform instead of product approach in the huge redesign of its Outlook email program by bringing together outside partners like PayPal, Uber, Evernote and Yelp! to create not just a winning email product, but winning email ecosystem.

According to HBR “With a platform model, the critical asset is the community and resources of its members. The focus of strategy shifts from controlling resources to orchestrating them, from optimizing internal resources, to facilitating external interactions and from increasing customer value to optimizing ecosystem value.”

Doesn’t all this new innovation sound a lot like the collaborative economy? Creating ecosystems built off of technology platforms to unite people around shared ideas and the accomplishment of specific goals?

With new models of success being predicated on a company’s ability to create platform driven models, the massive impact of the collaborative economy becomes more and more visceral. Companies ranging from John Deere to Nike are quickly scrambling to get in the game.

Collaborative Commerce

As big business continues to look to smaller, entrepreneurial enterprises for cues on how to succeed and lead in the future, following are a few key points for entrepreneurs to consider as the debate over platform vs. pipeline businesses continues to unfold:

1) Products by category and price point are largely commoditized. That being the case, a company must try to drive engagement and attain customer loyalty through winning experiences. Platform models that build ecosystems can offer such seamless interfaces and are critical to attaining long-term enhanced performance and competitive advantage.

2) While small is the new beautiful, scale not size matters. Through the power of the ioT today any company can appear large enough to have a powerful and broad reach. That being said, there is a difference between being large enough to sell products globally, and being able to offer seamless and consistent products and services on a global scale. In order to achieve the latter, entrepreneurs must create winning platform models that connect consumers directly to producers wherever possible. While a bespoke approach to creativity is vital to product and service development, creating networks that allow scale to occur quickly and efficiently are an imperative.

3) A company is great. A company with an amazing brand is better. Today, anyone can leverage technology to create their own “company” few however have the rigor, discipline and creativity to imagine and actualize their own brand. The key difference between a company and a company with a brand, is the type of immersive experiences provided. Companies by and large just sell good products. Companies with amazing brands sell products AND offer one-of-a-kind experiences. By looking to create ecosystem driven platforms within your organization, a company is much likelier to be able to transcend to ‘brand” status by its ability to scale its experiences and innovations.

4) Collaboration today is the key to everything. The sharing economy has changed not only the game, but the way the game must be played. Companies today are so much better in partnership and collaboration with others, be they external partners, vendors, consumers or even their own employees. The key to victory in switching from a pipeline driven product focused company to a platform one is recognizing that while innovation, disruption, speed and resources are critical to innovation, one of the most vital ingredients is the collaborative approach to commerce that platform models provide.

It seems clear that future success is going to be driven by those wise enough to harness the power of collaboration to build winning ecosystems that drive innovation, disruption and industry leadership.

While the comparisons between huge platform companies like GE and Microsoft and smaller collaborative economy players like TaskRabbit and Postmates may possess a few disparities, the undeniable fact is that an age of doing it for the we instead of the singular me is most definitely at the heart of the future of business.

Welcome to a world where it will be collaborative driven platforms not mere products that determine victory. Hail the new age of We-Commerce.

Billee Howard is Founder + Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting edge communications collective specializing in helping organizations and individuals to produce innovative, creative and passionate dialogues with target communities, consumers and employees, while blazing a trail toward new models of artful, responsible, and sustainable business success. Billee is a veteran communications executive in brand development, trend forecasting, strategic media relations, and C-suite executive positioning. She has a book dedicated to the study of the sharing economy called WeCommerce released in December 2015 as well as a blog entitled the #HouseofWe dedicated to curating the trends driving our economy forward. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes on the topics of marketing, storytelling and the collaborative economy.

Note: This article first appeared on HuffingtonPost!

Tammy Tibbets on Collaborative Commerce & We-Economy

Tammy Tibbetts on Collaborative Commerce & Sharing Economy

Tammy Tibbetts is the CEO and Founder of She’sTheFirst, which is a revolutionary non-profit dedicated to raising funds to send a first generation of women to college around the world. Tammy has used her insights and intellect to reimagine both what non profits and education can look like, and in doing so, have empowered new generations of women to make a difference, both young and old.

Tammy is one of the Wecons (Sharing Economy Icons) who inspired Billee Howard’s book WeCommerce. You can read more about the book on this launch page and here is our Q&A with Tammy Tibbetts, Founder & President of She’s the First.

  1.      How do you feel about being selected as a “wecon’ (an artist of business who is doing things to drive the collaborative commerce economy and culture forward?

Collaboration is how She’s the First began and it is the thread connecting all the pieces of our vision, so I am happy to be associated with those outcomes!

  1.      Do you think we are entering an era of we-commerce? An era where everything we do is about sharing, caring, the many vs the few and the we vs the me?

Absolutely, social media platforms give us the foundation to aggregate the small actions of individuals into a large movement. People want to share what makes them happy and what makes them look savvy with others. The millennial generation is so committed to social good. People are still very focused on the “me” (hello, selfies!) but I think that’s in the context of wanting to be a unique and valuable member to the “we” community. 

Tammy Tibbets on Sharing Economy

  1.      Do you consider yourself an artist of business? If yes why?

I personally don’t self-identify as an artist, no. My first identify was as a writer and reporter, so I feel that I transfer those skills–those of storytelling, ethics, reliable sources, and transparency–into my business acumen now.

  1.     Disrupt or Die? Tell me what comes to mind first and which you choose. Simply put how important is ongoing change to success?

Disrupt! I’d never choose die. Life is so short and if we take a moment to reflect on our own mortality, that is a reminder that we can’t let fear hold us back from taking calculated risks that will lead to personal fulfillment, community impact, and leaving a legacy. As they say, the only thing that never changes is the need to change. 

  1.      How do you feel that the new era of wecons (not icons) will work to ensure that our tomorrows are better?

Taking a bottom-up, community-driven approach. Crowdsoucing ideas and prototyping faster to make sure that the solutions they are proposing actually meet the needs.

  1.      Give us your favorite CEO/Company disruptor today?

The first that come to mind: RenttheRunway.com, Square, Venmo, Hulu/Netflix, Air bnb, Etsy

  1.      How does what you are doing today with your craft as a wecon differ from what you thought it would be years ago?

As a journalism student, I thought I would be writing stories about women and girls doing inspiring things in my future career as an uninvolved, observant reporter–and now I am on the other side of the story. On the business side of a non-profit, I’m raising the resources so that girls and women can be educated and gain the skills to become the success stories worth writing about.

  1.      Why is your industry different today from disruption than it once was?

Today, non-profits are thinking like businesses, not charities.

  1.      Why do you think your sector of expertise has become such a canvas for self expression today?

The start-ups in non-profit are resourceful and leverage creative marketing and storytelling just like the big brands do with their mega-million advertising, but we do it without the red tape and bureaucracy slowing us down. The material we have to share is so personal and compelling — there is nothing more self-expressive than an individual articulating their dreams and what barriers they can break, what they can accomplish for the world if only they had an education.

  1.   Tell us the place that you feel the majority of tomorrow’s wecons will come from?

Globally, I think the She’s the First Scholar graduates and their peers in low-income nations.

  1.  Tell us your favorite Andy Warhol expression and how it defines or describes you?

hmmm…Andy Warhol is not really of my generation, although I am very familiar with his legacy, so the print that comes first to mind, because of the relationship She’s the First has to DVF, is the Andy Warhol portraits of her in her studio and how she made his prints part of her fabrics for the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress this year.

Billee Howard is Founder + Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting edge communications consulting firm specializing in helping organizations and individuals to produce innovative, creative and passionate dialogues with target communities, consumers and employees, while blazing a trail toward new models of artful, responsible, and sustainable business success. Billee is a veteran communications executive in brand development, trend forecasting, strategic media relations, and C-suite executive positioning. She has a book dedicated to the study of the sharing economy called WeCommerce due out in Fall 2015 as well as a blog entitled the #HouseofWe dedicated to curating the trends driving our economy forward. You can read more about “WE-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy” right here!

PS – You can download a FREE chapter of  We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy here! 

Free Chapter Sharing Economy