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How SMBs Can Compete in Digital Ecosystems in the 2020s

Twenty years ago, customer experiences changed incrementally every few years, from less calls and physical mailers to more online interactions. The advent of smartphones and cloud computing laid the foundation for the 24/7, on-demand digital customer experiences that are becoming commonplace today. Providing the decade’s first look at emerging technology, CES included Toyota’s Woven City, featuring self-driving vehicles run on hydrogen fuel cells, robots, smart homes, and new forms of personal mobility.

Every aspect of Woven City creates a new channel for understanding customer experiences in ecosystem environments. Customer experiences built in an ecosystem environment is how this entire decade and perhaps beyond will function. As Toyota describes Woven City, it is a fully connected ecosystem. While there is no doubt this future city will showcase impressive new technologies, there is no need to travel to the base of Mount Fuji to develop new ways to understand customers in ecosystem environments.

Advances in AI, ML, and IoT, combined with other non-tech disciplines like behavioral science, are making it possible to predict and analyze customer behavior like never before. A Temkin Group survey revealed that companies that earn $1 billion can expect to gain an additional $700 million between 2018 to 2021 from investing in customer experience (CX).

While it is clear that the Toyotas of the world understand the importance of CX in digital ecosystems, how does a small- to medium-sized business (SMB) begin attempting to understand the digital ecosystem customer?

At the heart of the race for ecosystem-based CX dominance is a core principle that has stood the test of time as long as business has existed: maximizing existing resources with customers’ best interests in mind.

Maximizing resources with the customer in mind goes beyond doing more with less. SMBs that want to compete for the same customer as the multi-billion-dollar company in an ecosystem must make the most of their core value proposition and intelligently leverage data analytics with the best high-value touch customer touchpoints instead trying to catch up with emerging technology. This approach will show customers that while a business may not be able to provide the most cutting-edge technology on the planet, the SMB is equally if not more committed than a billion-dollar business to maintaining a lasting customer relationship instead of being the first to lead in a new technology category.

From there, larger ecosystem providers will look to these committed SMBs to complement their ecosystems, realizing that for the near term it is more profitable to partner than compete with a business that is so entrenched in the more intricate details of their customers lives.

The consumer stands to gain significantly from this balance of billion-dollar companies building futuristic technologies coupled with smaller businesses deeply invested in knowing every detail of the customer lifecycle with personal service. This is what I believe is ahead for the 2020s as technology created a boom of new small businesses to conclude the last decade that need to figure out how to compete for today’s digital customer.




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