Jonathan Earle: Why platforms are the future for customer insight

As marketers look to build more personal relationships with consumers, online platforms will be key to gaining relevant customer information.

Jonathan Earle

It seems just yesterday that customer relationship management (CRM) was the buzzphrase on every marketers’ lips. Then came the black art of data science, then customer experience and user experience. Now, it is digital platforms that are fast-becoming the go-to option for gaining customer insight.

Platforms are the holy grail as they provide customer information in bucket loads and information will be the key battleground that every company in the world will battle over in the future.

The idea is relatively simple – you bring together customers, data and businesses and the more they engage with the platform, the bigger the ecosystem and scope for information collection becomes, allowing for personalisation, customisation and above all else financial returns. Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

Let me share an example that is close to my heart.

Lopo Champalimaud set-up spa and salon booking site Wahanda in 2008 with his business partner. As serial entrepreneurs they saw the potential growth in the health and wellbeing market and an opportunity to help leverage small local beauty salons, nail specialists and hairdressers who typically have no budget to advertise in traditional media and therefore struggle to grow their business.

Then there were the potential customers – people who wanted to be pampered but didn’t know how to choose a local spa.

Cue Wahanda – ‪a platform bringing together clients with Soho type businesses and customers who were focused on their health and wellbeing. ‬The more that the businesses promoted themselves on the site and the more that their clients used them, the bigger the platform got, the more viable the business became for investors.

Fast forward a number of years and following significant VC funding Wahanda launched its ‘Book Yourself Fabulous‘ campaign and is now expanding the model across Europe. 

Building a platform is, however, not as simple as it sounds. Not only do you need to have the insight and foresight no one else has, you then need the gumption to get the idea off the ground, get backing, build a team of like-minded individuals and then (and only then) can you see whether the public will buy into your concept.

If successful it can be a lucrative business proposition. Sportwear retailer Under Armour spent around $500m (£343m) on the purchase of personal training app Endomondo and online calorie counter MyFitnessPal both of which will give it access to more-and-more information on customers and prospects to help targeting, marketing and selling. It also won’t be long before you can use a platform to share the number of steps you have made, the way you walk, your heart rate and blood pressure with your personal trainer, your doctor or your private medical practitioner who will all be able to make recommendations as to how you can stay healthier and live longer.

I have just eaten a Star Bar – thank the Lord this isn’t something my doctor can see the impact of, yet. Just think what a local make-over would do — if only there was someone out there who could help….

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