Digital for all now

The customer interface: a new industrial battle?

Econocom 17 Mar 2015

Since the industrial revolution, companies have developed complex processes from R&D to distribution and through design and production. But in recent years this model has been turned upside down: Über, the world’s biggest taxi company, owns no vehicles; Alibaba, a major valuable retailer, has no inventory; accommodation provider AirBnB owns no properties. What all these companies have in common is that they rely entirely on peer-to-peer interfaces in order to generate revenue.



“FULL STACK COMPANIES” VS. “Interface Owners”

TechCrunch puts companies into two categories:

• Full stack companies control all the “layers”: from R&D to marketing, and from distribution to sales.

• Interface owners, which use online platforms or applications to create an interface between users with needs and people who can address them.


Interface owners are the fastest-growing companies in history, thanks to their digital native savvy that allows them to be streets ahead of companies who have barely started their digital transformation. Flight price-comparison sites, for example, first seemed to provide welcome traffic and revenue to airlines before the airlines tried unsuccessfully to cut off their business and promoted their own apps and websites.


THE Customer interface WAR

Companies such as Uber, AirBnB and Blablacar reach a maximum of clients with minimal overheads and a much more agile organisation than full stack companies. For example, whilst a newspaper needs to write, fact check, buy paper, print and distribute newspapers to generate ad money, Facebook achieves the same thing by simply providing a platform for users to write their own content.


The value of a company is no longer measured in terms of the product manufactured or the service rendered, but by the quality of the software, app or platform it offers. Having an icon on every smartphone screen is now more profitable than having a store at the most prestigious address.


To stay in the game, disruptive companies therefore have to offer an optimal user experience

That focuses on the quality of their digital interfaces. Bertrand Duperrin, a director at Next Modernity, a digital transformation consulting firm, recently stressed the importance of having a holistic view of digitalisation. The digital transformation specialist mentions an incident when he was trying to get a loyalty card from his mobile: whilst the first stages went smoothly, he didn’t receive his automatically-generated loyalty number via email until a week later!

“The digital, mobile experience was remarkably well thought-out and executed but it didn’t include all the processes.”

The disappointment of this experience led him to the following conclusion:

“This proves that the digital transformation of an organisation isn’t just about slapping digital on the existing organisation but completely reinventing it.”

And this is precisely where the interface owners have the edge: as they’re completely web-based, they have complete control over the entire digital arsenal.  At a time when digital should no longer be just a skill for a company but a genuine transformation driver, the “new barbarians”, as they are sometimes referred to, should at least be credited for forcing their competitors to speed up their digital transition.


Photo credit: Nathanael Coyne –  Sketching ( / Licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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