This is the second feature in a our 6-part series from our COO, "Thinking Like a Tech Company in 2018". This series highlights the shifts in consumer behavior and its impact on how we do business today.
In Part 1 of this series, we took a look at Amazon’s journey from online bookseller to tech powerhouse and the elements that contributed to the company’s success. Businesses like Uber have mirrored Amazon’s methods, developing and scaling new technology to meet businesses’ needs.
“How can my company be more like Uber or Amazon and scale new products and services?”
This question can be extremely overwhelming for businesses; so much so, that it’s difficult to know where to start and requires a level of collaboration that is hard to manage. At times it will seem impossible. Start small—for a business to expand or adapt its product offerings to meet a more consumer-driven model, it must first look at its current workflow.
What we're really asking is: how do I make my business more shrinkwrapped and scalable? How can we more efficiently deliver our goods and services and experiences to our customers, employees, and partners? Many of these requirements are driven by compliance, legal, IT, or worse—because they've always been done that way. Leaning into what happens in consumer-land can help you re-think what you're currently doing today.
Most of the time, what keeps companies in the dark ages is the use of documents, paper, or old-school processes that create friction. These processes can—and should—be automated or integrated in ways never before imagined within your company. Let's discuss how to look at that from a practical perspective.
What is your business' current workflow?
- What processes are highly manual in your various systems today? (Generally anything that uses the word “document” or “paper”)
- What processes are not connected to each other that could be? What role does technology play in that?
- How easy is it for your customer to try or buy your products or services?
- What is the onboarding process like for your employees or partners?
- What is most satisfying to your customers when they do business with you?
The next step is to take action based on the answers to these questions, and see where the solutions can scale.
How E-Commerce Has Streamlined Workflows to Meet Consumer Demand
In the world of e-commerce, the B2B business model has shifted to introduce self-service e-commerce innovations to match consumer demands in an instant fashion. Legal departments are where many e-commerce innovations in B2B hit a roadblock. Why? Legal departments need contracts to protect and manage the risk of the business. There are always legal terms, provisions, and signatures that determine when money changes hands, who to hold accountable for disputes, etc.
Until recently, e-commerce businesses of all types (B2B or B2C) didn’t realize what an arduous process contracts can create when onboarding a new customer (consumers or businesses they’re working with). Businesses haven’t looked at this as an opportunity cost, and as a result it leaves legal as a bottleneck to faster growth and usage. Forbes has said that in 2018, e-commerce will need to prioritze aligning internal departments in order to scale and deliver on more focused customer experience.
"Whether you are a director of digital or search or PR, you should be doing everything you can to align efforts to help your teams connect authentically with audiences and achieve your e-commerce goals." —Forbes, November 2017
Streamlining contracts to be a one-step process has allowed e-commerce businesses like Amazon to skyrocket growth and usage and expand the types of services they provide. By providing legal teams in a legally enforceable way to onboard customers and solidify partnerships, the product side of its business has been able to build out technologies and advance innovation. More importantly, these one-step efficiencies have aligned internal departments in a more productive way, allowing the overall business to focus more on customer experience.
Successful Companies Don't Just Innovate, They Adopt
Think about the Facebook example referred to in part 1 of our series—there was no way the business could scale to a billion-plus users if it had every single user read and sign a contract before signing up. Facebook recognized it could grow at an incredible rate by providing its customers a one-step onboarding process.
Thinking like the successful technology companies of today is a bigger task than creating innovative products. It requires adopting business methods and values built around the customer:
- Becoming more mobile;
- Adapting to consumer behavior;
- Building flexible products that integrate into tools used daily by consumers.
People want products and services that are intuitive to use and don’t disrupt their path to their goals. Take a look at the macroeonomic shift of business and technology across all industries today. Have you implemented any of these evolutions successful companies are using today?
Very few businesses think through how to implement these types of processes for sales. Most companies struggle to implement processes that even benefit them internally. There is an important experience to always consider: How is buying for your customer? Asking this will help you formulate how you tackle the consumer-driven demand your customers come to expect.