Tag Archives: innovation

Conglomerates with a twist

Beating eParadise – How Cross-Industry Collaboration Must Evolve

Cross-industry collaboration must be interpreted in a dramatically different way today. That’s because the most noteworthy competitors in any industry today have among them several non-traditional players. These include upstarts who have started with simple, logical, online models and are now slowly expanding to gobble up adjacent sectors – Amazon, Airbnb, Alibaba, Uber, PayPal, WeChat to name a few. And then there are players rooted in the physical but building smart ecosystems – Costco, JP Morgan, Hyatt, WalMart to name a few.

It can be said that these new competitors are not traditional industry players – instead they are digital conglomerates focused on owning the customer. All of these are building the WalMart of the 21st century – only much more broader than imaginable.

A new definition for cross-industry collaboration is needed

The traditional definition of cross-industry collaboration is obsolete because it was about distribution, or supply chain benefits: different players of all kinds coming together to build a city, or complete an IoT platform, market a product, make a hardware product, or fill up a marketplace. There was one dominant player in the middle of this collaboration.

That’s why in “The red herring of Amazon and Physical Retail“, I outlined how the real battle is not at all about AI, big data, analytics, or being Omni Channel. Instead when we look past this red herring, we find that the real battle is about being a place where one can find almost anything, and about creating a loyalty program that knits together many different businesses.

However times have changed. And today the problem we want to solve is orders of magnitude more complex that just a more robust value chain. We must address cross-industry customer journeys to stay relevant which means the concept of the value chain itself must expand dramatically.

So the real conversation these days should be about upgrading our cross-industry collaboration and innovation models.  But what is this collaboration we speak about – between who? And what kind of innovation?

To help illustrate this new definition of “cross-industry collaboration” better, I’ll use the story of The Paradise, a Netflix show. Stay with me for a minute! The story of The Paradise outlines how an enterprising young woman manages to bring together a diverse collection of main street stores in an effort to work together against Britain’s first department store – The Paradise. She orchestrates the creation of a common loyalty program, links their promotions, provides mechanisms to recommend each others’ goods, and engages in customer service as one entity so they can feed off each other. Unfortunately, the script writers doomed that model to fail in favor of a melodrama instead of an exciting business thriller. But not without leaving us with some very interesting lessons to think about for competing in today’s digital economy.

cross-industry collaboration - Conglomerates with a twist

(source:  The Principle of Completion – being a conglomerate without being one )

How the tables have turned

Fast forward a few decades from that setting, and we see that the model is being reversed in the online space. The protagonists are now innovators such as Amazon.com, while the aggressors of yesterday (aka The Paradise) are actors of the main street marketplace.

There is hope still. In recent years, some enterprising folks have created models that have the potential to be the backbone of tomorrow’s economy. The core concept is not new, but it now has the right backing of technology to propel it forward.

I’ll outline a few below to get your creative juices flowing on this kind of industry collaboration. If you thought Amazon Prime is difficult to reproduce think again!

  • Shoprunner: This rapidly growing program links together about 140 businesses (as of last count) and provides free 2 day shipping and large discounts from member businesses. It’s unique because it brings on its platform multiple card issuers, card networks, and retailers. These member businesses also become sales engines of this program. The program is presently playing at the outside borders of what can be a true revolution. But it has the right foundations to become a future powerhouse of discovery and commerce – provided all parties can collaborate and play nice towards the grander vision. Right now, the program is basically trying to drive a lot of traffic to member retailers (in an affiliate like model) which can be a little frustrating for your inbox, but I’ll be watching this space as they further develop the tools for personalization and goals based selling, and expand the scope of their platform.
  • Plenti: Conceived by American Express, this masterpiece (yes, I really think it is) is a true cross-industry loyalty program. It has brought together gas stations, retailers, pharmacies, restaurants and others as part of a program that very few thought would take off. It is indeed gratifying to punch in your phone number at a store, and see the savings miraculously appear on the receipt. That its owned and operated by American Express should be a trivial problem to solve for businesses looking to build the next generation marketplace. Plenti is largely still a payments based play but it’ll be interesting to see how this story unfolds in the areas of experiential commerce and lifestyle.
  • Ebates: A few internet years ago, I considered this affiliate based marketing model as yet another 1 out of a 1,000,000 online locations to get deals and discounts. But in today’s context, this site (and others like it) have a special meaning because they show how they can provide a common thread that businesses need. There is much evolution to do still and that means plenty of potential for innovation and collaboration.
  • Citi Bonus Cash Center: This at-the-time visionary affiliate based concept was a perfect Amazon of today, and still has the potential to be except that it is loosely built and focused on discounts much like Ebates is. But it is evidence that the model of the future is right there for an overarching cross-industry platform. The big difference from a traditional affilitate model is that being a platform owned by a large bank, it can deliver extreme personalization, integrated financial planning & benefits, along with being your One Drive of the future!
  • Groupon and others:  I think you are beginning to get the drift so I won’t belabor the point any more. On the other side of the world, you can also think about WeChat and Alibaba who are living up this marketplace model to the hilt. 

Any model that can span cross-industry boundaries is a candidate for innovation in cross-industry collaboration. Much like the solution to the blockchain hype, the trick is in looking from the outside-in – at our business versus from our business. It’s also a call for reflection and action for those who haven’t pushed the boundaries of this new kind of cross-industry collaboration yet.

The models I’ve outlined are not just for distribution or supply chain anymore. Latest technology such as public API models (Application Programmer Interfaces) and blockchain allow us today to create partnerships without being a partner. But the technology has always existed to help us meet these emerging needs. What we need now is a willingness to look beyond the comfortable and immediate. The pace of business change is accelerating. Can we keep up?

Connected Company - cross-industry collaboration

I outlined The Connected Company in my latest book Connected! and you can get the principles straight to your inbox. An eBook is available FREE for download here.

Fintech Innovation Watch – What’s next!


There’s so much is happening in the financial services world that its enough to make your head spin. At the same time, if you take a look at the news today, you can see who’s getting it and moving forward, and who’s content with playing the same old game risking their very survival.

Here’s my Fintech Innovation Watch. With a twist! With every news item, I’ll also go out on a limb and derive some future potential innovations that might happen (or might not)!

APIs: Xero tied up with Capital One. Its a great partnership but the news is getting old now with Wells, SVB etc. already on this bandwagon. I’m sure better things are coming soon. This integration is great for a customer to import their bank transactions into Xero (and hence be happier with Capital One), but banks need to prepare for the new frontiers in customer engagement? For example, in a connected world, a simple 2-way API that helps build up context of the customer transactions that’s available in Xero to help with analytics on receivables and other cash management needs? The number of value added services (perhaps paid) that can be developed by banks are countless. We only need to look beyond the traditional products of business checking account and loans. Read the original news item here.

Core banking and community: In another interesting development, Fiserv signed up Apple Creek Bank. This is a small community bank in Ohio. The reasons for moving to Fiserv are based on traditional metrics of faster processes and providing additional digital services like PopMoney to customers. Fiserv has started to do that really well no doubt. And great goals by Apple Creek too. But if you think about it, the goals also reflect the pains of all banks who are severely constrained, and perhaps trapped inside their own perimeters. With less than deep pockets, many of them rely on their foundation platforms to carry them into the new world. Banking providers should be enabling Internet of Everything for community banks, and helping to actually build a community connected by exciting types of commerce. By serving same old same old, the community banking menu of offerings won’t be able to make escape velocity. Read the original news item here.

Payments: Then we see the continued rise of seamless payments. M&B restaurants are leading the way just like Uber and Lyft did, by making the payments and ordering seamless with Flypay. We order, we eat and drink, and we walk away. Its like Panera++ and Starbucks++! There’s also the added bonus of seamless loyalty across all the M&B brands, not to mention lots of labor efficiency gains. No doubt future enhancements like order ahead and recommendations are on the way, and we should be closely watching how these sector specific payment models will work with more traditional models such as cards and even Apple Pay. Will the list of payment options always be available? Going even further, will restaurant platforms open up APIs for ordering and payments  – to be skinned by anyone? Now, that would be a mashup to watch! Read the original news item here.

Robo-Advising: What a model this news represents! Something for all banks to think about. Danske bank launched its digital investment platform (June) to put to work deposits that are earning practically nothing where they are! Sure, all of us need a little cushion for the rainy day but lets face it – most of us have way more sitting in our checking accounts than we would like. So Danske has turned that simmering dissatisfaction into something of a delight. Independent robo-advisors watch out! Even though June itself is a robo-advisor it is showing us a model that so far has been limited to the large wealth managers like Vanguard and Schwabb. Now if only my own trusty old bank can get its act together, and actually help me manage my money better! Danske got a couple of things right – first they make it easy for customers to take an action, they offer a defined and tailored portfolio, and they’ve opened it up to customers outside of Danske. Now that’s a nice escape from the Innovators Dilemma and creating new business models of the future. Way to go! Read the original news item here.

Hope you liked my take on these innovations. Each of these innovations is awesome in its own right of course. It does take a lot of make a change, however incremental it may be. Do let me know what you thought of this Fintech Innovation Watch. These leaps of faith are based on the principles I used in my new book Connected! How Platforms of Today Will Become Apps of Tomorrow.

Thanks to Finextra for the daily sources. If you liked my take, do subscribe to the blog for when the next edition comes out in a few days. And PS: If anyone wants to partner up to target any of these innovations, look me up! Image courtesy Pixabay

Until next time!

Connect Needs. Deliver innovation.

An article on Forbes.com analyzed the 3 types of innovation outlined in a report by Booz & Company that companies follow. And it was clear that the “need seeker”, the company that tries to seek out and meet an emerging or latent need, wins hands down.

The three types of companies and their innovation models were defined as:

  • Need seekers get a deep understanding of end user needs to inspire the development of new product ideas.
  • Market readers excel at following the introduction of a popular new product trend with a product that can get to market fast and surf that wave while it’s still building.
  • Tech drivers push the edge of technology innovation and try to find a viable business model that can turn it into revenues and profits.

The more I think about it, there seems to be a strong link between The Principle of Presenting, and successfully getting maximum returns on the R&D and innovation investments. The Principle of Presenting is about aligning customer interactions with our total value proposition. That means that different product lines must come together to create an irresistible value proposition for the customers.

Customers and consumers are looking for much more than information about our products. They are looking to define their need, compare options and determine what is right for them. In order to do that, they must analyze how a product or service will fit in with the other products and services they are considering. Finally they will investigate how the new products or services will work with what they already have. All along, the supporting factors like price, variants and shipment will be considered.

The Principle of Presenting starts by thinking about this customer thought process. We must start with the customer, not the product. Think about how our products are positioned to customers today.


The gaps are obvious. There is a big disconnect between what we are designing and communicating, and what the customers are capable of hearing or are being told. The customer experience should revolve around the purpose of the products portfolio, and not a product itself.

Now let’s consider the “need seeker” company. Such a company must iterate through the customer’s entire needs spectrum before it can determine where it wants to play.  How are customers interacting with their products today? What activities do they perform in order to accomplish their objectives? What other products do they use to fill the gaps? What causes a break in experience? What information are they seeking that is not available easily? Can something be done to make their work or use easier?

The report outlined the example of a 12 inch saw by Stanley Black & Decker. A more pertinent and recent example I can think of is when their devices were internet enabled so they can communicate with the manufacturer. That capability connected the company with users in real time, and thus breaking the barrier between just selling a product, and actually helping a customer achieve their goals. Apple, is another example where their phone, App Store, payments, iCloud, FaceTime and other such interlinked capabilities work together to yield maximum benefits to the customers. Amazon is similar. Think of their competitors and you probably won’t yet see such coherent creation of an ecosystem through their product portfolios.

The innovation problem seems insurmountable if examined through the traditional lens that looks inside out at the problem – what services and products do we provide today, and how should we connect them or make them universal? That’s a complicated question to answer. It’s easier to comprehend if we reverse the lens – what do our customers need and how do we cater to that? What’s worse is that in a firm focused on products and geographies, we may not even be asking this question.

The digital economy has bridged many isolated communication channels. Just like in the case of The Principle of External Reinforcement, if our products are not presented so they help each other with a singular focus on customer needs, our engagement with customers will be subpar.


Based on The Principle of Presenting from my book “Dancing The Digital Tune: The 5 Principles of Competing in a Digital World”

An alternate and more comprehensive version is on my LinkedIn profile at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/connect-needs-deliver-innovation-manish-grover