The New Economy: Scoring Customers
An economy cluster is when a group of companies – usually ones who share similar goals or technology – come together to share the local resources and form alliances.
To take an example from Jeremiah Owyang, several weeks ago a deal was brokered between Uber (a San Francisco-based transportation network) and Amex (American Express) to allow the two companies to share financial data, and also to allow them to launch a new initiative involving the use of Amex cards and loyalty points within the transportation networks of Uber. As well as providing a new and convenient (and potentially money-saving) method of payment to customers, the new collaboration between the two companies allows them to share information.
It is a theory that economic clustering can lead to growth in the economy as a whole, since the sharing is not limited to local resources, but also to “buyer-supplier relationships, turnover…joint marketing, training, or research initiatives, associations, and lobbying.” Unfortunately, economic clustering can also lead to the so-called ‘pirating’ of employees between the companies, a danger which increases if the companies involved in the cluster work in fields which are either the same or closely related.
What can definitely be said about economic clusters is that the phenomenon allows for the accumulation of data on a scale which is not usually possible, due to the collaboration between businesses which quite possibly (particularly if they are local) will share the same customers.
What can possibly be said about collaborative economic clusters is that they are unique in the field of business collaboration because they can quite often be undertaken on a very personal level. Take Airbnb and Elance as examples: rather than have the collaboration take place specifically between two or more businesses, the website is set up in such a way as to enable individuals on both sides of the business divide (travellers and hosts for Airbnb/clients and workers for Elance) to advocate for themselves and their own needs, by allowing them their own individual space to outline what they can offer, whether that be a profile for workers to describe their achievements and talents for all interested parties, or a post for clients to outline their needs and the needs of the job they have on offer.
One last interesting point about business to business or indeed direct person to person collaboration is that it somehow allows for a more equal exchange to take place than is usual in business interactions. In the starting paragraph, I mentioned the collaboration between American Express and Uber, where Express card points could be used to pay for public transport. This is a particularly good example of collaboration, as it represents an entirely equal exchange of goods and services between the two parties – American express customers get to pay for travel with their points, and in exchange, Uber will provide American Express with a pool of potential new customers when they learn about the new transport deal.
In a similar way, Airbnb features an equality between people seeking accommodation and people offering accommodation because while the space or quality of the accommodation may differ (the website offers potential users a choice of shared room\single room\entire house listings), all users of the site are assumed to be private homeowners, allowing people to enter into dialogue with people who are their equals.
One thing is certain. The traditional way of doing business is rapidly changing. It is being challenged and disrupted by the more forward thinking and innovative brands and persons willing to challenge the status quo – instead of resting their laurels on the convenience of the present.