If you examine the seven largest companies based on market capitalization, six of them are digital platform ecosystems. The trend toward digitizing services, e-Commerce, and community-building under a platform business model continues.
Many companies are intimidated by the prospect of developing their own platform. Others aren’t yet aware of the benefits of using an already-established platform to build a following of active consumers. Platform ecosystems serve a broad range of purposes for businesses large and small, technology-based, and even brick-and-mortar.
Below we’ll discuss what a platform ecosystem is, the common features shared by different platform models, and their benefits and challenges.
Understanding a Platform-Based Ecosystem
If you’ve ever used the world’s most recognized brands—like Amazon or Facebook—then you’ve used a digital platform ecosystem.
A platform ecosystem is a single site bringing users together, and there are three main platform categories, under which are multiple models:
- Business to Consumer (B2C)
- Business to Business (B2B)
- Internal Business
Platforms can benefit any industry, whether physical or solely online. Some examples are:
- Food delivery
One example is HubSpot’s platform ecosystem for content marketing. Because they’re a recognized and trusted brand in content marketing, they’ve chosen to focus on a platform that’s a launching point for trusted names in the space.
HubSpot’s ecosystem is a one-stop that allows users to browse endless services, features, and apps from:
- Marketing agencies
- Service providers
- Content management developers
- e-Commerce programmers
What Are Some Common Features of a Platform Ecosystem?
As more businesses adopt a platform-based model online, we see how vastly different industries benefit. With B2B and B2C sales, e-Commerce, and manufacturing, platforms can deepen the connection between users and a brand by transforming traditional company-centered operations into a customer, or user-centered focus.
A platform’s specific feature set differs depending on the kind of business and how the platform is used. Below are some of the standard features commonly shared by most platforms:
Platforms may use live chat with text, audio, or video. This communication supports and serves the user beyond pre-written FAQs. Live interaction increasingly uses artificial intelligence (AI) to boost user engagement and support.
For e-Commerce, platform features mean users can do the following:
- Search for many sellers competing for price, quality, and item specifics
- Save items to a wish list
- Track shipments
- Search and leave reviews
Tools for Employees
For internal business operations, platforms combine employee tools under a single application. Departments can communicate under a portal with private forums and messaging. They can track customer interaction and tag team members to important topics. All office-centered functions are available from a single interface.
Platforms facilitate user communication with the host company and are typically customizable, allowing users to select preferences, personalize a profile, and prioritize the most-used features.
How Do Platform Ecosystems Work?
While every platform ecosystem is unique, there are broad categories with a common underlying design intent. Platform models include:
Amazon is the most obvious example of an e-Commerce platform where companies set up shop on the central host platform. In this example, Amazon—the provider—offers the use of its integrations, platform features, and server space.
Amazon’s brand popularity brings a high volume of users and a model for targeted search engine visibility. Businesses set up an online shop and utilize the host platform’s traffic.
Platforms like Facebook bring users together to discuss topics, share videos, private message each other, and form communities around shared interests. Social media host platforms like this model also allow companies to establish their business, messaging directly to their target demographics and running integrated ads that can appear directly in user feeds.
Companies focusing on providing a platform for IT and software-focused technology will often attract a crowd by providing an underlying set of valuable tools: For instance, they’ll develop a selection of free application programming interface (API) features shared across the platform.
As the number of users grows, the host can invite branded technology partners to help create a value-set for a growing community.
Platforms can grow a user community by offering ongoing service and billing for the continued benefits of the platform. A platform like Patreon even provides a subscription platform model to creators, who then build a following through subscriptions.
Companies can use a platform entirely for member support. A good example is the healthcare industry, connecting health plan features, FAQs, deep resources, and networks of doctors, facilities, and live assistance—all on a single website.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Companies can build an IoT platform ecosystem around a specific product, a series of products, or a complex system of smart device integrations.
IoT connects everyday devices and appliances to the internet, where data can be collected and sent. The connection may be for efficiency, feature and system automation, or to collect metrics. Its purpose may be to control an entire smart city from a central platform.
What Are the Main Benefits of Platform Ecosystems?
Taking advantage of Excel SoftSources’ nearshore offshoring allows you to develop the ideal platform from the ground up. The benefits begin by building around your company’s needs while understanding a deeper connection to your team’s culture.
The following are seven fundamental benefits of a well-designed platform ecosystem:
1. Integrates Directly into Your Sales Funnel
You can design your sales funnel to send your target audience directly to your platform.
2. Messaging Reaches Your Most Devoted Audience Instantly
Once users sign-up to use your platform, you can instantly serve your messaging, special offers, feature upgrades, or brand-building communication to everyone at no cost.
3. Offers Resources to Users in a Single Environment
A resource repository, thorough search functions, on-topic communications, and well-organized features make it worthwhile for people to use your platform instead of seeking those resources from multiple sites.
4. Navigates Easily
Your platform makes it easy for users to find everything they need, including products, free resources, and communication with others for support. Finding everything in one place drives interest and positive interaction.
5. Support Can Drive Sales
Answering user questions quickly, live on your own platform, allows opportunities to sell, offer discounts, or advise users about how they’ll benefit from your platform ecosystem.
6. Streamlines Your Business Operations
Businesses using a platform ecosystem for internal operations can integrate all company functions under a single application. Instead of using one application for videoconferencing, another for calendars and event planning, and yet another for tracking metrics, every feature pulls from a central platform.
7. Employees Are Less Siloed
Often, companies structure departments with isolated teams that don’t interact easily with other departments. A unified platform ecosystem brings all departments together to experience the company’s culture, easily interact, and share all company tools and features in the same application.
Challenges of Platform Ecosystems
Like any worthy business decision, developing and operating a platform comes with unique challenges. Below are common obstacles and strategies to overcome them.
Any good idea brings competitors to the same space. Whether you’re a company looking for more exposure from a large platform host like Amazon or in a niche market looking to draw customers to your independent platform, it takes effort to attract your target audience.
Success comes from:
- Quality content marketing
- A strong presence on social media channels
- Providing a meaningful experience with glitch-free site navigation
- Being present
- Offering incentives for users to join your platform
Developing a platform using templated plugins takes time and effort to customize. It’s more efficient to build the appropriate application or browser-based platform from scratch.
Creating the ideal platform requires the right development team to build and deploy your platform, maintain it, and provide ongoing security updates. Partnering with the right development team is crucial.
Investment and Time
Developing a well-planned platform roadmap requires an investment of money and time, beginning at the design stage. You can’t create the roadmap overnight. Start with clear goals, set milestones, and work efficiently to implement your vision.
Develop Your Platform Ecosystem with Excel SoftSources
A platform ecosystem helps you engage with customers, build a sense of community, strengthen your brand, or provide the most efficient workspace for your business. The benefits of a platform-centered model align with nearly every company with an online presence.
Our digital platform developers have experience creating front-end and back-end systems—from design and layout to navigation, from underlying code to ongoing security. We follow the most robust agile development methodology, so we’re continuously progressing toward deployment on schedule and at budget.
When you partner with Excel SoftSources, you’ll get the best developers for long-term platform development at significant cost savings. Our nearshore teams work during the same US time zone hours and speak fluent English.
If you’re interested in discussing how to take advantage of a digital platform ecosystem for your business, we’d love to hear from you!