Doc Searls on owning our loyalty programs as consumers

The article below from Doc Searls got me thinking... What if we defined our own loyalty program? I'm interested in savings, or in perks, or in personalized service... What if for every vendor we used more than once we could define a plan for that vendor relationship? 

ProjectVRM: Loyalty means nothing if customers don’t have their own ways of expressing it, 2015-Aug-16 by Doc Searls

What if customers had their own methods of expressing loyalty? Not silo-provided gimmicks like Facebook’s “like” buttons, but standard tools or systems that every customer could use, as easily as they use their own wallets or phones.

Think about how much better it would be for the whole marketplace if we built loyalty tools and systems where loyalty actually resides: on the customer’s side. What customers express through these tools and systems would be far more genuine and meaningful than any of today’s silo’d and coercive “loyalty programs,” which inconvenience everybody and yield rewards worth less than the time wasted by everybody dealing with them.

If loyalty systems are left entirely up to the sellers of the world, we’ll have as many different systems as we have sellers. Which, of course, is what we already have, and it’s a royal mess.

LoyaltyMinder as a platform not a product

If we can develop a platform, instead of just an app, we can have a much greater upside. The authors of Platform Revolution explain managing a platform instead of a product pipeline. 

Harvard Business Review: Pipelines, Platforms, and the New Rules of Strategy, 2016-April, by Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Geoffrey G. Parker and Sangeet Paul Choudary 

Platforms have existed for years. Malls link consumers and merchants; newspapers connect subscribers and advertisers. What’s changed in this century is that information technology has profoundly reduced the need to own physical infrastructure and assets. IT makes building and scaling up platforms vastly simpler and cheaper, allows nearly frictionless participation that strengthens network effects, and enhances the ability to capture, analyze, and exchange huge amounts of data that increase the platform’s value to all. You don’t need to look far to see examples of platform businesses, from Uber to Alibaba to Airbnb, whose spectacular growth abruptly upended their industries.

Though they come in many varieties, platforms all have an ecosystem with the same basic structure, comprising four types of players. The owners of platforms control their intellectual property and governance. Providers serve as the platforms’ interface with users. Producers create their offerings, and consumers use those offerings.... 

The move from pipeline to platform involves three key shifts:

1. From resource control to resource orchestration.
The resource-based view of competition holds that firms gain advantage by controlling scarce and valuable—ideally, inimitable—assets. In a pipeline world, those include tangible assets such as mines and real estate and intangible assets like intellectual property. With platforms, the assets that are hard to copy are the community and the resources its members own and contribute, be they rooms or cars or ideas and information. In other words, the network of producers and consumers is the chief asset.

2. From internal optimization to external interaction.
Pipeline firms organize their internal labor and resources to create value by optimizing an entire chain of product activities, from materials sourcing to sales and service. Platforms create value by facilitating interactions between external producers and consumers. Because of this external orientation, they often shed even variable costs of production. The emphasis shifts from dictating processes to persuading participants, and ecosystem governance becomes an essential skill.

3. From a focus on customer value to a focus on ecosystem value.
Pipelines seek to maximize the lifetime value of individual customers of products and services, who, in effect, sit at the end of a linear process. By contrast, platforms seek to maximize the total value of an expanding ecosystem in a circular, iterative, feedback-driven process. Sometimes that requires subsidizing one type of consumer in order to attract another type.

These three shifts make clear that competition is more complicated and dynamic in a platform world....

Competitive threats tend to follow one of three patterns. First, they may come from an established platform with superior network effects that uses its relationships with customers to enter your industry. Products have features; platforms have communities, and those communities can be leveraged. Given Google’s relationship with consumers, the value its network provides them, and its interest in the internet of things, Siemens might have predicted the tech giant’s entry into the home-automation market (though not necessarily into thermostats). Second, a competitor may target an overlapping customer base with a distinctive new offering that leverages network effects. Airbnb’s and Uber’s challenges to the hotel and taxi industries fall into this category. The final pattern, in which platforms that collect the same type of data that your firm does suddenly go after your market, is still emerging. When a data set is valuable, but different parties control different chunks of it, competition between unlikely camps may ensue. This is happening in health care...

With platforms, a critical strategic aim is strong up-front design that will attract the desired participants, enable the right interactions (so-called core interactions), and encourage ever-more-powerful network effects. In our experience, managers often fumble here by focusing too much on the wrong type of interaction. And the perhaps counter-intuitive bottom line, given how much we stress the importance of network effects, is that it’s usually wise to ensure the value of interactions for participants before focusing on volume.

Most successful platforms launch with a single type of interaction that generates high value even if, at first, low volume. They then move into adjacent markets or adjacent types of interactions, increasing both value and volume.

Internet Identity Workshop

IIW was started to discuss what was then called "user-centric identity" and a look at the proceedings from past IIWs will convince you that topics related to user-centric identity are a big part of every IIW.

The recent interest in self-sovereign identity, blockchain-based identity, and related systems has pushed that conversation to a new level.

At the same time, IIW serves as a forum for working on the identity systems and protocols that make the modern Web work such as OAuth, OpenID Connect, User-Managed Access, and Fido, to name a few.


Defining #customertech

Clothing is many kinds of tech at once: privacytech, expressiontech and fashiontech, to name three. Unless you shop naked, which you probably don’t, clothing is also customertech: a way of extending your sovereign self into the marketplace, signaling your fitness as a customer, whether or not you are conscious of doing so.

Likewise your wallet. In that you carry a portfolio of instruments—cash, credentials, credit cards—that you can use selectively and expertly in every store, restaurant and other commercial setting we visit. In this sense wallets have scale. If you carry a purse, it might also contain a second wallet of loyalty cards and perhaps an address book where we keep notes and a list of contacts. Those tools—wallets, purses, address books—are all extensions of yourself that work everywhere in the marketplace. That’s why you carry them.

All of those things are now moving onto our phones as well, but not in ways that are fully ours. For example, there is no digital wallet made that’s as personal and private as the ones we carry in the physical world. And there should be. If anything, the customertech we have in our phones should start with the graces we enjoy in the physical world—of privacy, control, scale, convenience and expression—and expand them into the virtual one through the amazing graces of digital technology and the Internet. Instead we get lots of conveniences that offer scale only inside the silos of Google, Amazon, Apple and dozens of retailers, banks and other entities that mostly just want to acquire or move our cash and data. (In many cases they also want our attention, our loyalty—always coerced—or other scarce resources of consciousness.)


Loyalty ecosystem includes Card-Linking

What Is Card-Linking?
Card-linking enables consumers to receive a discount or loyalty benefit automatically when they pay
with a payment card that has been digitally linked to an offer or loyalty benefit. Leading card issuers,
retailers, messaging apps and other digital publishers provide card-linked offers through mobile apps and loyalty programs. More than at any other time, card-linking is the value differentiator for online to-offline commerce.

Giving Back
As the industry matures, card-linking is moving from cash back to giving back. More and more new
companies are using card-linked technology to support socially responsible businesses, locally owned
businesses or non-profit organizations. The CardLinx survey shows that not only the types of companies entering card-linking has grown, the variety of industries has grown as well the marketing departments that utilize it.

Internet of Commerce Things
Card-linking brings together all the industries that make payment-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) devices work: banks, digital advertisers, payment networks, payment processors and retailers. This seamless card-linking infrastructure has created a surge in loyalty rewards and programs using card-linking.... 

To facilitate continued growth, CardLinx earlier this year released an open source card-linking codebase, providing APIs to the leading payment networks. 

(registration required)

Sufficiency: idea to research

2017-Jun-1 by Terry Crowley

Sufficiency is a dirty word in this business although the challenges it causes are well captured and shared broadly by Christianson’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. The more recent book “The Rise and Fall of American Growth” by Robert Gordon describes this notion of sufficiency across a much wider spectrum of the American economy. Sufficiency is sort of like an economic recession. A recession is declared after two consecutive quarters of declining output — which means you are six or more months into the recession before it is actually acknowledged. Even as the use cases for desktop computers did not change, there continued to be important evolution in the basic hardware that kept participants in the ecosystem focused on trying to leverage these innovations into new use cases. Decades after laptops were introduced, I still want an even lighter laptop with an even longer battery life. But what I use that laptop for generally has not changed.

If the core launch revenue comes from subscriptions...

The easiest way to start the platform is to provide a subscription-based product (probably with a free version) that solves a problem for consumers. And never stops doing that. 

Ben Thompson on the local news business model, 2017-May-9

A subscription business is just that: a business that must, through its content, earn ongoing revenue from customers. That means understanding what those customers want, and what they don’t. It means focusing on the user experience, and the content mix. And it means selling by every member of the organization.

Minimum Viable Audience

We'll need to create a content channel around loyalty and behavioral change. 

Copyblogger: 5 Ways a Minimum Viable Audience Gives You an Unfair Business Advantage, by Brian Clark

I’ve often said that social media is the greatest freely accessible market research environment ever known.

Let me qualify that, however, because I’ve always meant it in the context of creating content that builds an audience via social media distribution of that content. I learn more from serving an online audience than any other approach I’ve taken to truly understanding a market.

The power comes from learning directly from an actual group of people in response to relevant stimuli (your content), rather than trying to glean a great idea from general research about an abstract market. Real people who pay attention to you, with real problems and desires.

I’m not saying you should ask them what they want to buy. People only truly tell you what they want to buy by buying it — anything else is not reliable.

Cashless = dependent without a cryptocurrency

Why LoyaltyMinder should foster cryptocurrency... 

American Banker: BankThink: How I missed the point of bitcoin
By Marc Hochstein  Published  June 12 2017, 8:49pm EDT

As the world goes digital and physical cash transactions continue to decline — egged on by payments companies aiming to expand market share and by governments seeking to maximize tax revenues — there will likely be a lot more attempts to turn trusted third parties into choke points. The writer Brett Scott warned about this last year:

“Cashless society” is a euphemism for the "ask-your-banks-for-permission-to-pay society." Rather than an exchange occurring directly between the hotel and me, it takes the form of a "have your people talk to my people" affair.

It would be facile to claim that censorship-resistance is “more important than ever in the age of Trump.” Where were all these people clutching their pearls about the current administration’s authoritarian tendencies in 2011, when the FDIC published a since-retracted “hit list” lumping in pornography and “racist materials” (both forms of speech) and other legal businesses with Ponzi schemes as examples of “high-risk” industries?

Amazon's brutal capitalism

Amazon seems to me the scariest example of brutal, inhumane capitalism. They don't adhere to any value except winning and dominating their customers, suppliers and employees. 

The Verge: Amazon granted a patent that prevents in-store shoppers from online price checking, 2017-Jun-15 by Dani Deahl

Amazon’s long been a go-to for people to online price compare while shopping at brick-and-mortars. Now, a new patent granted to the company could prevent people from doing just that inside Amazon’s own stores.

The patent, titled “Physical Store Online Shopping Control,” details a mechanism where a retailer can intercept network requests like URLs and search terms that happen on its in-store Wi-Fi, then act upon them in various ways.

The document details in great length how a retailer like Amazon would use this information to its benefit. If, for example, the retailer sees you’re trying to access a competitor’s website to price check an item, it could compare the requested content to what’s offered in-store and then send price comparison information or a coupon to your browser instead. Or it could suggest a complementary item, or even block content outright....

While the idea of a blocked price comparison search is annoying, it’s also the very sort of thing Amazon itself protests. Amazon, along with other companies and nonprofit groups, have signed on to a “day of action” to protest the FCC’s planned rollback of net neutrality rules.