For businesses looking for new ways to leverage the Internet to expand and improve their bottom line, digital ecosystems may be the next big thing. Already common in tech-oriented businesses as well as academia, digital ecosystems are now seeing adoption across a wide variety of industries – even manufacturing.
Digital ecosystems are relatively inexpensive to implement, compared to many other tech upgrades, but can bring far-ranging benefits to your entire operation.
Understanding Digital Ecosystems
What is a digital ecosystem? Broadly speaking, it refers to a collection of online resources which are shared throughout your physical ecosystem. There is top-to-bottom access, via a single unified online portal. Different groups will be given access to different areas of the digital ecosystem, but basically, everyone is allowed to participate in some way – even your end users.
Some examples are:
- Creating a public knowledge base, or even a Wiki, which anyone is allowed to read and\or contribute to, encouraging better understanding of your products.
- Giving sales partners access to your CRM, and vice-versa, so that customer records are universal.
- Setting up creative environments for collaborative creation of marketing materials, videos, etc.
- Designing secure encrypted pipelines for transferring protected data between levels of your ecosystem, akin to how the medical industry protects patient records.
- Sharing training tools, videos, demonstrations, etc, so that trade schools, or even members of the public, can learn more about proper care and servicing of your products.
- Hosting forums and other lines of communication where users, trainers, sales staff, tech support, product designers, and more can all share ideas.
Better yet, if you already have substantial electronic resources in place – such as knowledge databases and CRM systems – you’re already much of the way towards having a full digital ecosystem. From there, the main hurdle is opening up that system to all elements of your offline ecosystem, while ensuring proper security gateways prevent any unauthorized access to protected data.
The Benefits of Digital Ecosystems
There are numerous ways a robust digital ecosystem can pay off, across both the short term and the long term. Benefits will vary depending on the type of business implementing the system, but some of the more common benefits include:
Creating new revenue streams
A digital ecosystem doesn’t have to be free to access. It can have tiered access structures, particularly for data which is inherently valuable – such as technical schematics for troubleshooting, or training materials for trade schools.
Rapid recognition of new trends
Top-level vendors, particularly in indirect sales organizations, have a tendency to become disconnected from their end-users. This can make it difficult for them to recognize new trends in purchasing habits, or specific features their users want. Digital ecosystems create top-to-bottom connectivity.
Lowered costs across the physical ecosystem
Improved lines of communication almost always pay off with greater efficiency and streamlining of business processes. A digital ecosystem makes it easier than ever to keep everyone talking productively.
This is another top-to-bottom benefit: If your physical ecosystem is engaged with your digital ecosystem, they will be highly invested in your company and ripe for further business dealings.
Lowered support costs
Post-sale support is the bane of profitability. The more support features you can move online into a self-serve format, the more you save. Also, digital ecosystems can potentially be the foundation for moving towards an ad-hoc freelance-based support network, rather than maintaining expensive support centers.
In short, digital ecosystems have the potential to bring enormous top-to-bottom benefits within a large-scale sales organization, with a relatively small investment in software. This is definitely a trend to be keeping an eye on.