End of an era.
In 2011 Marc Andreessen famously wrote that “software is eating the world”.
It was and remains a remarkably prescient insight.
In the 11 years since, the very nature of how we interact, consume and exchange value, is now dominated by software. Now, with technology driving so much innovation, it’s also driving the rapid pace of change.
Since 2011 platforms like Shopify have risen to create entire digital ecosystems, processing billions in economic value. With open API’s & App Stores it is now possible (and also financially attractive) to build entire businesses on top of this existing infrastructure. It has both spurred and channelled innovation into the Shopify Platform.
As a result entrepreneurs have flooded in to solve business friction points, inundating Shopify vendors with a whole host of tempting apps and services. If you sell online (which is now the majority of us) the combination of this progress combined with recent global events has only widened the impact of change.
It’s affecting everything.
From Privacy, PPC Ad Models, Product Choice, The Environment, Energy Usage, Macroeconomics, Population Demographics, Business Cycles, AI, Manufacturing, Supply Chains, Travel & Gaming, practically every aspect of our lives is being impacted in significant and material ways. We are now in the era where this new software is now eating the software that was eating the world.
We are now in the era where new software is eating the software that was eating the world.
When you add a tightening global business environment and increasing competition. It’s fair to say we are now at the end of the era of the “easy” growth in the digital space. The future will absolutely be about doing more with less.
Taken as a whole it can seem overwhelming. A lot of noise and not enough signal. However history shows that during these inflection points, there is immense opportunity for those able to tune out the noise and focus on what matters.
A cultural customer shift.
Assuming you have a great service or product and a great team (an entire subject in itself). Then likely next on the list of important priorities is knowing your customers. A business that has a good grasp of the - who, what, why and where - of their customer, will have a significant advantage.
Not only does it allow them to be where their customers are, but importantly it allows them to be there “in the moment” when a transaction happens. It's such a high value prize, that there have famously been a number of high profile companies overreaching and coming into conflict with customer privacy issues.
This has led to stricter rules about what you can track and target to your customers. Not only has this complicated the playing field but we’ve seen a massive change in customer behaviours. Gone are the days where the purchase journey is simply going online and doing a Google search.
We’ve seen a massive change in customer behaviours. Gone are the days where the purchase journey is simply going online and doing a Google search
Increasingly that purchase moment is now just as likely to be on a chat channel, in a game, while watching/reading long-form content (or in the near future via VR or AR) as it is to be directly on your website. Consumer behaviour, especially with younger demographics has shifted to a much more social and community orientated based endeavour.
Brands and vendors that have embraced this by supporting their communities to own and define the brand. Have gone on to create incredibly deep and long term connections with their audience. Such is the change here with how influential user generated content is on purchase decisions, your best salespeople are now actually likely to be your customers.
As companies have realised the power of the brand ambassador, they have increasingly embraced both online and now again offline communities. Helping to create loyal customer bases that are aligned around the companies philosophies and lifestyle goals.
Threading suitable products and services into these communities with authenticity is powerful. People naturally align and publicly contribute, using purchasing decisions as a way to publicly express ethics, philosophies or certain lifestyles.
More than ever this requires brands and vendors to be authentic. To stand for something beyond "just making a sale".
More than ever this requires brands and vendors to be authentic. To stand for something beyond “just making the sale”.
A framework for focus.
With such a dynamic playing field what then, is the best way to navigate this environment so that you can choose the best apps and services to make the most of these customer trends?
First and most importantly, is to start with a clear goal from a first principles perspective. This will help you properly interrogate what you're trying to solve and the outcomes you want. From here you can better evaluate tools and services rationally against these goals.
Secondly, make sure any apps or services you bring into the business help increase “signal” rather than just add “noise”. Whilst having lots of data and cool dashboards is great. Data really only has power and value once you can use it. So rather than noise that creates option paralysis, you can make meaningful insights and actions that move you closer to your goals.
Lastly, every app and service should have to earn and then maintain its place within your operation. Maybe it saves your team hours of time, or gets you in front of new customers, or helps you increase the value of the ones you have. Whatever that metric or yardstick is for your operation, make sure you have it clearly outlined, and be ruthless in applying it.
From our perspective at Inspira, we see a lot of businesses that get saddled with sub-optimal processes and tech setups because “that's just how things are done”. It's understandable, for one it gets harder to change as a business grows. However, it's also because they didn’t make it important to re-evaluate how things can be improved against a clear set of guiding principles on a high enough cadence.
Often if you're just adding something because it’s shiny and new, then more than likely it's just going to add unwanted friction and noise. Making it harder for your or your operation to make the right decisions. Worse, it can distract you or lead you to the wrong conclusions.
If you want to remain an efficient and competitive company, then it’s vital to embed this process into your team. Especially in the light of how fast this sector moves. Set out a clear agile framework for evaluating and improving the tools you use, for yourself or within your team. It will help the focus for your operation without being overwhelmed.
With that in mind, here are some key things to think about when building out your framework and thinking about making your business operations more efficient.
- Remove noise, increase signal
- Embrace your why
- Be customer-centric & create great experiences
- Rethink marketing
- Streamline costs (and use savings to re-invest)
- Look for opportunities to expand your market share
- Investigate the viability of, or improve your subscription models
- Develop strategic partnerships
- Create win win Business to Business Partnerships
Some new tools.
At Inspira we’ve worked with a huge amount of business over the last 14 years. As a result, we’ve been party to the decision making process thats directly helped them make decisions about what platforms to use.
This includes building the 123rd ever Shopify store, when we decided to use Shopify for our ecommerce delivery. So we’d like to think we have a knack for sorting the wheat from the chaff. Below are some apps and services that are on our radar currently.
We are using this for our platform Alvio Network to help build out an invite only community. With Guild we’ve been able to create a place where businesses can talk about working together before creating partnership on the Alvio Platform. However it’s purpose-built for creating professional groups, networks and communities to connect, communicate and collaborate. It can be a great place to build out the epicentre of your community efforts away from the noise and feature uncertainty of the major platforms.
Meaningful AI Power!
As discussed data powered by AI and great UI that actually helps you make meaningful actions is key, these services certainly make significant headway towards those goals.
- Kimonix.com (Merchandising)
Turning store collections into powerful data driven conversion machines.
- Nibbletechnology.com (AI Chat Bot)
AI driven chat bot with a great sense of humour - intelligent and fun discounting.
- Conjura.com & actito.com (Making Sense of big Data)
Modern commerce operates across multiple platform. These guys help get data into one place and decode it into meaningful actions.
Perhaps one of the most powerful way to grow and scale your business is via win win business partnerships. Whether that be making existing partnerships more efficient or being able to work with other brands that have audience crossover.
- https://alvio.network/ - The B2B Platform
So forgive the plug of our own platform! However Alvio makes it super simple to partner with another online business. Allowing you to create code free data connection that shares products and orders in near real time. The Alvio Platform makes it easy for you to define the rules of each connection from the products you share and what price right through to how shipping costs, inventory and invoicing is handled.
Listen to more on this subject where I chat in detail with Adam on Across the Pond.