Businesses ‘must act now to avoid tech giant domination by 2025’

26/04/2018

By 2025, 80% of all digital services to be delivered through a few core platforms, according to a new forecast.

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Business consulting firm, Virtusa, predicts that hundreds are at risk due to the explosive growth of innovative tech giants led by Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent (BAT), and Amazon.

Virtusa warns that UK firms that deliver services, such as banks and telcos, are lagging behind in the digital economy compared to firms, such as those in China, that capitalize on emerging trends in other markets where those companies, like BAT, have perfected a new, horizontal business model.

BAT has brought together products and services from a range of adjacent industries with one ultimate aim – the ability to own and monetise all facets of a consumer’s lifestyle choices.

BAT has taken this horizontal expansion model and used it to incubate hundreds of companies outside of China across a dozen sectors; all dedicated to meeting every need of a billion customers through a single platform.

Such acquisitions enable these businesses to build detailed digital personas through which they identify every customer touchpoint that can be monetised, providing a roadmap of new industries to enter. In this way, acquisitions are now becoming consumer-driven, creating a shift in strategic business thinking. Instead of choosing markets based on specific industry knowledge, BAT selects targets based on how they fit into the overall digital landscape to appeal to convenience-hungry millennials – examples are investments made by BAT in Snapchat, Farfetch, and Lyft.

As a result, Virtusa predicts that digital platforms will become the primary provider for all our lifestyle needs, with consumers processing 80 percent of their purchases through a single provider by 2025.

“In the new digital economy, intuitiveness is king – something BAT does better than anyone,” said Raj Rajgopal, president of Virtusa’s Digital Strategy Group and head of Virtusa’s China Insights Group. “Customers – especially millennials – don’t care who fulfills their order or delivers them a service. They don’t need to have a dedicated banking or telco provider, they’re perfectly happy to bank via a social media app if it works intuitively. BAT has extended this logic across all industries, and the success of these firms has been demonstrated by an astonishing 50 percent growth rate year-on-year. Their platform users can now deal with one company that can facilitate all their needs, from transport, to entertainment, to financial services – and BAT is still moving into new sectors. Firms are waking up to a world where the economy is being built around platforms, where only the fulfillment of a product or service will matter, not who fulfills it – a realisation that should serve as a wake up to all specialist businesses in the UK.”

Virtusa predicts this shift will rock the foundations many UK businesses are built on. BAT, along with American giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook, will be the dominant force that channels all future sales – weakening the UK’s global presence unless they put in place strategies now to compete. As these platforms become the conduits through which all customer interactions take place – from cashier-less stores to magic mirrors, and even hybrid messaging/payment apps – we get closer to an age where brand, heritage, and expertise pale in importance when faced against convenience and intuitiveness. This will force UK businesses into adopting a supplier relationship with platform providers that would negatively impact profit margins - unless they take steps today to adapt.

“A lot of companies will struggle to survive in the new digital ecosystem,” said Rajgopal. “The ones that plan to do so successfully will have to work through three options. Lead in the creation of a platform through a set of strategic acquisitions to provide end-to-end lifestyle services such as those provided by Alibaba or Tencent, enter into a network of strategic partnerships as a peer similar to the alliances we see in the airline industry, or transition into selling via somebody else’s platform, as many traditional retailers have with Amazon. We have created the China Insights Group to help companies analyse the competitive playbook of BAT, understand the threat they pose if these practices are adopted, prepare early on a strategy to pursue, and how to go about it.”

Virtusa’s China Insights Group was set up four months ago to identify and define the strategies that companies like BAT employ to enter different markets. The group’s analysis has resulted in the creation of playbooks for Ali Baba, Tencent, Ping An Insurance, and ZhongAn. For each playbook, CIG has developed 20 detailed use cases that lay out each company’s strategy for expansion and the capabilities they plan to use to supplant the competition. These playbooks also include how these companies determine what types of services to provide and what customer journeys to support. The goal of CIG, in conjunction with Virtusa’s Digital Business Strategy team, is not to only to help clients battle the incoming threat of these Eastern tech giants. It is also to enable firms to emulate these strategies in order to build dominance in their own respective markets.

In particular, it recommends that all firms:

• Analyse the biggest digital threats they face and ‘wargame’ a strategy ahead of a new tech giant entering their sector.
• Ensure they are tracking innovation in other markets, particularly China, to avoid falling behind the curve.
• Start building detailed and comprehensive digital personas for individual consumers.

Virtusa’s China Insights Group will continue to research and explore how Eastern innovators are achieving market dominance and will use those insights to help clients of Virtusa learn how to adopt similar strategies that will lead them to dominance in their own markets.

Regulation in western geographies will slow the expansion of these Chinese giants allowing “Facebook, Google, and Amazon to catch up and compete with them,” said Rajgopal. “But for most firms who are experts in just one industry, meeting this new challenge is going to be incredibly difficult and they need to decide on their strategy. Unfortunately there’s no magic bullet and each company has to figure out its own path – but the decision needs to be made now because in five years’ time when BAT is at the door, it’ll be too late to respond.”

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