Canadian Underwriter

Majority of businesses and economies not ready for digital platforms: Accenture

September 14, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter

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The majority of businesses and economies are not ready for digital platforms, according to a new report released on Tuesday by global professional services company Accenture.

Global Accessibility of TechnologyAccenture’s report Five Ways to Win with Digital Platforms, published in collaboration with the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance, assessed the ability of 16 G20 economies, including Canada, to support the flourishing of digital platforms. It found that China, India and United States will dominate the platform economy by 2020 and that “the gulf between countries will increase.”

The research included in-depth interviews with 50 “experts, platform owners, platform partners and other relevant business leaders, venture capitalists and academics from eight priority G20 countries” – Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, United Kingdom and the U.S. The analysis used the Accenture Platform Readiness Index across 16 countries, the aforementioned eight, as well as Australia, Brazil, Japan, Korea Republic, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Turkey.

The research showed that the U.K and Germany will join China, India and the U.S. at the top of the Accenture Platform Readiness Index, but “other emerging markets and European economies are predicted to lag behind, lacking sufficient business and socio-economic enabling conditions.”

“When you think of digital platforms, think of China and India as much as the U.S.,” said Paul Daugherty, chief technology officer with Accenture, in a press release. “These economies are using the power of platforms to create large scale markets very rapidly. Many European economies are in danger of missing out in the platform economy. Multi-stakeholder cooperation is required to address the fragmented digital markets and to support the greater levels of digital enterprise and consumption that successful platform businesses need.”

Accenture’s analysis shows US$20 billion was invested in digital platforms between 2010 and 2015 in 1,053 publicly announced deals, with more than half of this investment taking place between 2014 and 2015. It also shows that rankings on the Accenture Platform Readiness Index strongly correlate to the levels of digital platform activity and investment in G20 countries. However, “despite the potential for small and traditional businesses to become successful digital platform companies, as few as 10% of new start-ups focused on digital platform business models will become profitable independent entities in the coming years,” the release said.

The report recommended that governments engage with businesses leaders to advance a range of policies that can create a “rich enabling environment” for digital platforms including the following actions:

  1. Prioritize data protection standards and rules: Drive the harmonization of data privacy and data security legislation. Smooth cross-border data transfers;
  2. Design regulations with digital platforms in mind: Experiment with regulations alongside new technologies and business models. For instance, the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority’s “regulatory sandbox” allows start-ups to test ideas without immediately incurring all the normal regulatory consequences;
  3. Encourage cross-border electronic trade. Harmonize taxes and standards, consumer protection, contract laws and logistics infrastructure. The eWorld Trade Platform, initiated by B20 China, aims to accelerate international policy collaboration to support SMEs.
  4. Invest in digital infrastructure: For example, the EU’s Payment Services Directive (PSD2) will empower start-ups to expand customer reach and encourage innovative business models; and
  5. Educate SMEs on alternative funding, such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending; and on data privacy and consumer protection. Support SMEs with digital economic zones to support ecommerce.

According to Accenture, only 15% of Fortune 100 companies have developed digital platform business models to date. “Successful digital platforms will proliferate as small businesses and traditional industries follow the lead set by digital-born platform companies,” the release said.

Accenture identified five factors critical to sustaining critical mass in digital platforms, which use new technologies to create large scale markets of customers and service providers. These include:

  • Proposition: Create differentiated platform services that extend beyond the point of transaction and that support both customers on the demand side and service providers on the supply side;
  • Personalization: Target customers through tailored experiences across all channels, using customer data to anticipate needs and offer bespoke experiences;
  • Price: Apply new pricing models, such as pay-as-you-go, ‘freemiums,’ and subscription pricing to respond to peak demand;
  • Protection: Embed trust at the heart of the platform, using both prevention and compensation techniques to attract customers and differentiate the platform; and
  • Partners: Scale the platform rapidly by identifying digital partners – such as app developers and payment service providers – who can enrich the platform experience and fulfil customer needs.

“Digital platforms are not just the preserve of digital born companies, like Airbnb and Alibaba, but are now becoming a default business model in most industry sectors, both B2B and B2C,” said Francis Hintermann, managing director of Accenture Research, in the release. “To enjoy efficiencies and high rates of growth, companies will need to transform everything from the way they co-create goods and services with third parties, tailor their offerings to customers, and price them dynamically. Crucially, they will only sustain critical mass by working with digital partners who can deliver the range of functional services that complete the customer experience.”