Inspired by the increasingly collaborative and interactive digital marketplace, the platform business model encourages consumers to not only purchase products and services but also contribute value to the organization. According to technology analyst Sangeet Paul Choudary, platforms allow users to “create and consume value”; YouTube, eBay and PayPal are just a few examples of a platform business model where customers are more than consumers — they are also contributors.
The Harvard Business Review explains that a platform business is a multifaceted approach that incorporates consumers into the model in never-before-seen ways using cloud technology, social networking and mobile apps. With these methods, your platform can connect different customer groups and allow them to interact. On eBay, for example, buyers connect with sellers using the website as their base, while PayPal allows two groups of users to exchange money using its website and mobile app.
The Allure of the Platform
The platform business model is appealing to modern-day business owners because it capitalizes on what’s popular right now: interactivity, social media and the always-connected mindset of millennials and beyond. Potential customers always have a smartphone in hand, and they interact with friends through a variety of web- and cloud-based sources. Thus, creating a platform that makes the most of digital connections, technology and mobile apps seems like a smart and current way to elevate a business.
However, a platform alone does not guarantee success. For your platform to succeed it must attract enough interested producers and consumers to contribute their business, and it must be well-designed, focusing on efficiency and ease of use. Building connections is the key to success for your platform model, but not all business focus on this important step before launching their platform with sub par results.
Platform Benefits for Your Business
A successful platform business model cultivates connections before going live, and it builds a base of interested consumers and producers who want to add value to the business with their contributions. Using the eBay example, a lack of products for sale — that is, not enough sellers — will fail to attract interested buyers, resulting in a floundering platform.
When your platform is well-established, your business can enjoy a number of significant benefits.
Broader Contributor Network
You don’t have to develop everything in house when you have a bustling platform; instead, you will have contributors, such as app developers, from across the globe helping to expand your business. This rich network of contributors can respond to industry and customer demands, delivering the products and services that customers want at a more efficient pace. As a result, your business can accelerate growth thanks to its efficient and ever-growing network of contributors.
Contributors to your platform will share their developments with their digital circle. App developers, for example, might tweet about their newest creation, while content writers might share their latest blog post on their Facebook page. As a result, your growing contributor network will deliver extensive — not to mention free — marketing for your business. This marketing can help build your customer base and see your business grow.
Web- and cloud-based networks offer limitless potential for your platform. You can continue to recruit developers and customers via the web and mobile apps, since tapping into this rich network allows you to reach beyond regional boundaries and engage with customers from across the globe.
Blending technology and collaboration, the platform business model capitalizes on modern-day trends, including social media. Choosing this model for your business can lead to growth and success if your network is well-developed, your contributors are talented and your customers are engaged. Working toward a platform doesn’t happen overnight, but the effort to build a platform can result in long-term benefits and growth.