The gig economy and the sharing economy have one thing in common – they’re tech-driven. More specifically, they’re driven by digital platforms. Temporary work and shared services have always existed, but what makes them so hot right now is that we can access them easily and affordably using nothing more than a smartphone with an internet connection. In fact, the gig economy and the sharing economy are enabled by the platform economy.
The platform economy refers to the economic conditions under which several economic, professional, personal and social activities are carried out using digital or online platforms. Think Amazon, Uber, Facebook and Airbnb. Digital platforms are revolutionising the way brands create value for end users and stakeholders and are opening up a new way to compete for market share.
It’s a multibillion-dollar industry that’s growing every year and it’s finally time for South African businesses to get a slice of the pie.
Platform readiness 101
According to Accenture’s whitepaper, South Africa: Winning with Digital Platforms, the country ranks 14th out of the 16 G20 countries based on their Platform Readiness Index. So what can South African businesses do to prepare for the platform economy? There are a few fundamental measures:
Rethink your value proposition. Your value proposition should match the needs of modern customers and the needs they’re likely to have in the near future. Among many other trends, consumers want things on demand and they want personalised experiences. How can you use digital platforms to transform your value proposition?
Make technology central to your business strategy. Technology needs to drive your business, internally or externally. Setting a digital transformation roadmap and leveraging IT as a business-critical resource will improve your business’s platform readiness.
Focus on CRM. Customer relationship management (CRM) is a big part of understanding your customers’ expectations and delivering on them. It gives you a data-driven advantage and can be used to optimise several points of engagement with your customers.
Innovation as a guiding principle
A brand can either drive innovation or respond to it. Those who drive it are better equipped to compete in the evolving business landscape and are better at interpreting consumer trends into profitable business models. An innovative mindset allows you to see growth prospects where others might see challenges and it prevents you from becoming complacent with the status quo. Innovation can also highlight some blind spots in your strategy or inefficiencies in your business models. This is where digital platforms can fill in gaps, eliminate redundant processes and sharpen your tools for acquiring new business and retaining existing customers.
All roads lead to growth
What it all comes down to is ROI and because digital platforms are so versatile, it’s almost guaranteed. Digital platforms are designed to connect businesses to customers, partners and other stakeholders using data as fuel and output. Whether it’s an e-commerce kiosk, a digital HR system, CRM software or a social network, digital platforms are engineered for growth. There’s no use trying to be the next Amazon but digital platforms can make your brand the first of its kind.