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Ecosystems: one of the most misunderstood opportunities, yet possibly the greatest one for business

I hear people talking about ecosystems like they’re the best thing since sliced bread… and maybe they will be.  God knows they should be.  But are they yet?  Heavens no.

Ecosystems are the promised land where businesses & consumers will congregate online around “life events” and all share data and part with money and become customers for life. And it sounds very sexy, especially when a highly-paid consultant shows you all the APIs talking to each other on a very neat Powerpoint deck.

But where are these ecosystems? And how do they impact my “life events”?

The reality is that right now no business is truly leveraging the potential of this phenomenon.  And believe me, it will be phenomenal when businesses start to pull it off.

Dare-I-say-it: When the promise of ecosystems starts being realised it will herald a new business age – and it will transform all businesses – creating a new world economy.

That’s a pretty big statement – granted.  But let’s just take one particular life event – getting married.

Marriage: ~18 months of organisation for one incredibly stressful day

This life event is probably overkill – but it will help explain the point.  Think about all the things that need to be organised for a wedding.  Flowers, bridesmaids, venue, budget, invites, invitees, “are we inviting cousins?”, table settings, bonbonnieres, RSVPs, gift registry, alcohol, food, speeches, who-is-sitting-with-who, rings, celebrant, flower girls… the list goes on and on.

Now let’s think ecosystems.  The point of ecosystems is less about the fact we bring different parties together around life events (yes, yes – with wonderful API thingies) – but rather the fact we help orchestrate them.

Orchestration is the real wonder sauce people.

Now imagine we create a digital ecosystem around weddings.  The ecosystem helps us set a date.  It knows our calendar and preferences – so it knows it has to be September (with the rest of Australia). It integrates with Facebook and quickly builds a first draft of invitees based on a combination of the length of friendship, frequency of contact, nature of contact etc.  And simply includes the vast majority of rellies by default (of course).

Now we’re on to venues. No dramas. Because it makes incredibly financial sense to be “hooked in” – all the best venues are in the ecosystem.  Fill in some quick preferences (Maleny please) and voila! A shortlist of venues – brimming with videos, virtual tours, testimonials etc.  And venues will go to this trouble because once someone creates this ecosystem engaged couples won’t be shopping anywhere else.  Venue picked – deposit paid – all through my stored account details.

Now we’re into gift registry – well that’s a no-brainer.  E-Commerce players will be one of the first into the ecosystems gig.  Set your preferences.  Take some photos of your current “wares” (the ecosystem then translates these into products we don’t need more of…) – no need to upload – all this stuff is synced through Apple instantly.  The ecosystem builds you a virtual store, allowing people to purchase the gift and get it drop-shipped.  Merchants get paid directly from Stripe. Keep up people.

Now for flowers.  Why don’t we match those to your favourite set of colours… how do I know that? Well, I scraped all of your images from Facebook and made a colour profile of course. No, you’ll probably put that in yourself, there’s a limit to some of this creepiness factor. Quickly shoot the colour profile over to all the major florists close to the chosen venue via API… waiting… waiting… BINGO!  Here are some recommended arrangements and prices.  Of course, you love the $10,000 option… sigh.  Best we up that credit card limit – no stress – the ecosystem is integrated with your banking and your pre-approved. Happy days.

It ain’t that much of a stretch…

So much of this might seem like a small stretch… but is it? A lot of this information is already available.  Expose it all via API (and Internet of Things) and then run some Artifical Intelligence over the top and we have a very sexy ecosystem sandwich.  And hopefully, a few less grey hairs planning the next wedding (nope – no more of those thanks!)

So how do I get on this ecosystem gravy train?

The good news is that it is VERY early days when it comes to ecosystems.  The technologies are still relatively immature and very few industries have released much in this way that impacts the end consumer… yet.

But to my mind ecosystems ARE the business model of the future.  And, to be honest, one of the key reasons I developed The Exponential Method.  It’s an opportunity so exciting that I needed to get my head around how you take a business from very traditional and competitive marketplaces all the way into digital ecosystems.  It’s a massive leap – but it can be an evolution, rather than a revolution.  The Exponential Method can show you the way.

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