How To Leverage Tech to Disrupt B2C Relationships
When real estate/hospitality disruptor Airbnb first started out in 2008, it was just one air mattress, a living room, and two ambitious roommates who just wanted to make a few extra bucks. Almost a decade later, Airbnb is the second-largest startup in the US. The company successfully raised $1 billion in funding in March, bringing its total valuation to $31 billion.
Like many other startups that have exploded over the past couple of years, the business model at Airbnb revolves around the customer. Before the internet, businesses could very well get away with treating customers indecently. Unsatisfied customers didn’t quite have any significant platform to vent, so businesses focused less on the customer and more on everything else.
Fast forward to 2017. With growing online communities, it has become incredibly easier for customers to put your business down with a viral negative comment. This means businesses with traditional B2C setups don’t have a fighting chance in today’s business world.
There are tons of tech-related lessons that modern business can borrow from successful startups to help modernize their business models. Check out how disruptive startups are using developments in these areas to improve customer relationships.
1. Tools and Apps
Most of the biggest startups of the past few years owe at least one facet of their success to apps and business tools. App development has grown in leaps and bounds recently, thanks to increasing mobile penetration and a growing pool of talented developers. In fact, many of the biggest startups wouldn’t be where they are without incorporating at least one business tool in day to day operations.
Take Uber for instance. In March, the New York Times reported that the ride-hailing service was using a tool called Greyball to protect its drivers from code enforcers, physical harm and harassment from third parties.
On its part, Airbnb utilizes a number of third-party apps and tools for mission-critical processes, including Braintree for payment services and Twilio for voice and SMS.
Gramblast, a live counter for Instagram, is another useful social media marketing tool used as part of digital marketing campaigns.
2. Big Data
The huge number of transactions taking place within the digital world often generates tons of data for businesses to play with. Businesses often hold a wide range of data from their customers - from a shopper’s favorite color to the number of times they shop in a month. Levering this data often means businesses have a better chance of warming the hearts (and wallets) of the 78% of consumers who are more likely to buy from brands that target their interests.
Netflix, Pandora and Foursquare are some of the biggest names in the big data game. Netflix uses viewer-provided ratings to recommend similar movies. Pandora recommends music albums and singles based on a listener’s habits while Foursquare uses social network analysis for marketing, ensuring they target individuals who are most likely to influence others.
3. Artificial Intelligence
When treated correctly with the right assortment of analytical tools, big data can also be used to fuel advances in AI. Don’t be scared though – machines aren’t coming for your job, yet. Still, AI is increasingly becoming part of everyday life. Elements of AI are regularly used to determine which ads will pop up on your Facebook page or how your personal Siri or Cortana assistants will help you through a busy workday.
Apart from Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and other big guns that are in advanced stages of implementing AI, there are many startups that are using elements of AI to improve B2C relationships. For instance, there’s Qubit, a London-based startup that helps brands like Time Inc and Thomas Cook translate customer data into targeted products using intelligent algorithms.
Amplero, another AI startup that just raised $17.5 million in a Series B round of funding, is also using machine learning to analyze customer interactions and help develop customer loyalty and lifetime value.
Financial technology, or fintech, is another area that has been shaping B2C relationships over the past few years. Banks and many other traditional financial institutions have been known to be among the worst adopters of technology, making it harder for them to stand out in the eyes of the average consumer.
A good number of startups, however, are beginning to challenge the status quo. WeSavvy, a tech startup based in Dublin, looks to incorporate the Internet of Things (IoT) to track fitness wearables and other medical devices in efforts to help insurers reward policyholders that lead healthy lives.
Henry Porter, the chief editor at tech magazine ProDigitalWeb, says the fintech scene will get more crowded as startups begin focusing on social investing. Startups like eToro are already getting into the mix. eToro gives investors insights into activities of traders and other investors on the platform, allowing an average investor to informatively manage their own investment portfolios on the platform.
The blockchain is hands-down one of the most disruptive technologies of the past decade. While the basic technology was initially created for decentralized transactions using bitcoin, applications of the blockchain have since stretched into many traditional industries.
For instance, in 2016, Barclays carried out a blockchain-based trade transaction in four hours, down from the 7 days it typically took for the same transaction. Nasdaq and IBM are among the companies that have followed suit, with each developing or in the process of developing their own blockchain-based products and services.
Because of its decentralized ledger, the blockchain can help improve trust levels within traditional B2C setups. Startups like Abra, the brand behind one of the most robust bitcoin wallets, are already becoming popular around the world, thanks to higher levels of trust and security.
In the stock market, the blockchain is revolutionizing online trading. Startups like Chain and TØ.com, an Overstock subsidiary, are already letting customers trade via the blockchain, setting a revolutionary precedence for the future of online trading.
There’s no denying the importance of technology in shaping traditional B2C relationships across different industries. At the current rate of tech innovation, any B2C brand that gets left behind might find it difficult to catch up, and it might just mean the end for such brands.
Vikas Agrawal is a start-up Investor and co-founder of the Infographic design agency Infobrandz.com, He is a highly influential research analyst and strategic marketing consultant. Vikas advises and plans the visual marketing campaigns of Medium to Large companies. Vikas has worked...