MARKETING

A Cheat Sheet for Marketers on
the Future of Digital Platforms
by Mark Bonchek and Cara France
MAY 05, 2015

STEVEN MOORE FOR HBR

Customer engagement has never been more urgent or more elusive. Real engagement – the
kind that goes beyond a momentary impression to a meaningful interaction – isn’t happening
on traditional channels. It’s happening today on digital platforms such as Twitter, Facebook,

LinkedIn. To date. CMO of YouTube. says the goal isn’t “how do I create the viral video?” Instead. pay. empowering customers. platforms have made us more efficient. personalize. Head of Brand at Pinterest. According to Paul Crandall. The power of platforms ultimately comes from people. and Instagram. participate. For the first time in history. Head of Glass at Google. GoPro understands this well. SVP of Marketing at GoPro. we have mass collaboration on a global scale. the goal should be “how do I use video to create an ongoing conversation that builds a relationship?” Brands must also remember that they are members of the social networks in which they participate.” To generate participation. To understand the future of digital platforms and what it means for marketers. the goal is “to make our customers the heroes by showcasing their enthusiasm and content on our platforms. they will soon “help us be more human and do the things we love to do. It’s the difference between Netflix and YouTube. People. marketers must engage more authentically. The perspectives of these executives suggest that the pace of innovation shows no sign of slowing down. “technology is ultimately about making things easier for people. platforms are two-sided networks. Participate. Marketers who want to understand the future of these platforms need to understand seven P’s: people. Digital and social platforms eliminate the friction in the flow of information and communication. adds. Netflix has an audience and adds content incrementally. YouTube. and citizens alike. engaging their customers not just as an audience of consumers. Channels are one-way pipes. and partner. YouTube has a community and adds content exponentially. SnapChat. product. . employees. but a community of cocreators. The word “platform” gets thrown around a lot.” 2. but according to Ivy Ross. Platform isn’t just a fancy name for a distribution channel or a service delivered through the cloud. Danielle Tiedt. we spoke with senior executives in a community of top marketers from Silicon Valley. but is often misunderstood.” And David Rubin. Pinterest. 1. with a focus on ongoing relationships beyond individual impressions or transactions. process.

Uber customers can now select the music for their trip directly from their Spotify playlists. Head of Global Business Marketing at Twitter. believes “the lines between product and marketing are blurring. digital platforms have been the place you go to talk about products. told us. Digital platforms do the work of making the experience more personalized. most likely through a digital platform. But the relationship between products and platforms is about to undergo a significant disruption.Daina Middleton. Twitter’s Middleton notes that bid management and customer experience platforms are bringing social media. customers are creating their own filters. not dominating.” And Google’s Ross thinks that the platform will be more than a place where you connect with friends. former VP of Marketing at LinkedIn. To date. More and more. The ease of connecting and co-creating on platforms has a downside. platforms are going to be more integrated into our products and services. our products are going to start showing up in our platforms. It won’t be long until our connected refrigerator or connected car sends the message itself.” The Internet of Things will soon be the Social Network of Things. the platform itself will feel “like a friend that knows you. As an example. Personalize. relevant.” Second. and CRM . and meaningful. Product. Nick Besbeas. display. we have historically wanted to dominate the conversation. First. Today.” 3. “as marketers. They will proactively notify us what’s important and even work as an agent on our behalf. 5.” 4. platforms are becoming more intelligent. We tend to focus on digital platforms that are customer-facing. they have an opportunity to discover. Ross believes the convergence of digital platforms with connected devices will be “one of the most disruptive forces” as “the net is increasingly around us and on us. but they are also happening internally and behind the scenes. According to YouTube’s Tiedt. a spouse might send a reminder to pick up the milk or get the oil changed. They are at the center and in control. The amount of information can be overwhelming. search. Process. but now it needs to be about participating. According to Middleton. “Our next challenge is to make sure the things they might be interested in.

instead of being the culmination of a temporary commercial relationship. 7. says that digital payments are creating frictionless ways to shop and pay. or even unsettling. you truly get what you give. And leaders who want their customers to engage with their brands on platforms must also participate themselves. it’s now becoming critical to the experience itself. According to Ross. customer service. connecting customer acquisition. Partner. Thanks to digital wallets. Lara Balazs. customers won’t want to use more than one platform for any given purpose. The smarter home will require partnerships with appliance manufacturers. pay the driver.” But the invisible nature of digital payments is making a new era of social commerce possible – one in which transactions are seamlessly embedded inside of ongoing collaborative relationships between customers and businesses. or order a coffee without touching our wallet.together. and payment on top of people. Have you noticed that payments are disappearing? The convenience of a swipe is giving way to the even greater convenience of – nothing. SVP of North America Marketing at Visa. participation and personalization. ranging from employee communications to performance management to professional development. we can expect even greater integration of e-commerce and social networks on digital platforms. 6. we can download an app. To layer product. In the future. It’s part of a relational context that anthropologists call a “gift economy. We believe a phenomenon is emerging that one might call “platform symmetry. and customer retention. process. and the connected car will require the . When you’re on a social network. companies will need to get even better at partnership and collaboration.” Companies that want to engage customers who use platforms to manage their lives must equally use platforms to manage their organizations. the act of making a payment can feel a bit odd. In a social age. Platforms and providers are going to have to work together to “unlock the connectivity” and deliver a compelling and seamless user experience. Companies are adopting platforms to reshape other business processes. Where payment used to be an afterthought. Pay.

The more you engage. He works with leaders to update their thinking for a digital age. new technologies like digital platforms are just the beginning. This makes things easier for us as individuals. A Cheat Sheet for Marketers the Future isofthe Digital Platforms Mark on Bonchek Founder and CEO (Chief Epiphany Officer) of SHIFT Thinking. And they need to create opportunities for their employees to re-skill and reinvent themselves too. the road ahead will not be getting easier anytime soon. Marketers need to continuously evolve the way they think about adding value to their customers beyond the products and services they sell. structures. Digital platforms are evolving to be more robust. creating new opportunities for brands to form unexpected alliances. Our conversations suggest that for marketers.same of carmakers. and practices. We can expect digital platforms to move beyond software platforms to business platforms with associated ecosystems. Whoever can keep up with the customer will share the winners’ circle. goals. CMO at Adobe. but more challenging for companies with traditional mindsets. Companies that win the hearts and minds of customers will be the ones that put their customers’ passions. Customers are setting the pace in this race. and that 40% believe they need to reinvent themselves to keep pace. and web analytics that didn’t exist five years ago. Marketing leaders need to rethink how they approach people and process. Sign up for the SHIFT newsletter and follow Mark on Twitter at @MarkBonchek. the more your customer will want to engage with your brand. They need to attract talent in areas like data science. . A study by Adobe found that 80% of marketers believe their role is fundamentally changing. and intelligent. According to Ann Lewnes. involve and empower your customer. social media. relevant. and inspiration at the forefront.

those who want to build the most appealing platforms would do well to either offer or foster great performances. it can look like the killer platforms of the future will be data-based. The only thing I might want to add is perhaps another "P" having to do with creativity/entertainment . This article is about MARKETING  FOLLOW THIS TOPIC Related Topics: SOCIAL PLATFORMS | CUSTOMERS Comments Leave a Comment POST 7 COMMENTS LIAM SHANNON 9 months ago Great piece. Follow her on Twitter @SageCEO. 00 REPLY  JOIN THE CONVERSATION POSTING GUIDELINES . just as Reality TV gave way to the long form serial story ( a la The Sopranos and Breaking Bad and Mad Men). Now significant portions of it are devoted to porn and cat videos. from where we stand now. a firm providing marketing and consulting talent to San Francisco Bay area companies. So while. and founder of Marketers that Matter.Cara France is CEO of The Sage Group. The Internet was created to support discourse among DARPA scientists.Performance.

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