The implementation of ecosystems for channel partner programs is achieved through applying the ‘Platform Business Model’ to the sector.
This is a trend that has underpinning digital transformation across many other industries, first pioneered by the the sharing economy digital giants.
Digital Ecosystem Platforms
Massive new startups like Uber taxis, Airbnb and many more are pioneering the ‘On Demand Economy’, implementing a Cloud-based On Demand Business Framework which overlays a ‘digital mesh’ across a marketplace of vendors, such as taxi drivers or travel accommodation.
The repeatable secret sauce is the Platform Business Model, described in detail through academic literature and popular business books. For example the MIT book ‘Platform Revolution‘ describes these hyper-scale disruptors like Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter et al, as the book describes:
“Facebook, PayPal, Alibaba, Uber-these seemingly disparate companies have upended entire industries by harnessing a single phenomenon: the platform business model.”
“A “Network platform” is defined by the subset of components used in common across a suite of products (Boudreau, 2006) that also exhibit network effects. Value is exchanged among a triangular set of relationships including users, component suppliers (co-developers), and platform firms.”
To date ecosystems have mainly been defined in terms of specific business models, industries and technology domains. For example as McKinsey offer in this detailed special guide, typical scenarios are digital banking and the IoT.
Accelerating Channel Sales
Channel Partner Ecosystems build upon and extend the traditional channel management model to integrate partners directly into the core product itself through app marketplaces.
It is an approach with massive strategic impact, not only achieving the route to market accelerators that channel programs are used for, but furthermore they simultaneously expand the core product capabilities, making the combined effort much more attractive to potential customers.
There are a multitude of case study examples that demonstrate the same core principle, from Zoom through Shopify to Atlassian, each offers a marketplace where third parties can list their own modules that plug in to the core product to enhance it in various ways.
The functionality offered differs to suit the customer base and use cases being addressed.
For example Zoom has over 1,000 apps in their marketplace that enhance meeting functionality, such as Calendaring and Scheduling, Collaboration, Transcription and EdTech, integrated into the video conferencing service by utilizing the core enabling mechanic of the app marketplace, the SDK.
As just one example is Faye, who enables the ability to schedule and launch a Zoom meeting from within Zendesk and also save and access meeting recordings within Zendesk. Animaker provides a list of the Top 10 Zoom apps for Startups.
This dynamic is extremely powerful for both parties. It greatly enhances the core product and in turn offers developers a massively accelerated route to an already-qualified market. Twine for Zoom Events is a compelling example – Zoom is the building block of virtual meetings, with networking being the natural progression for this experience, and the startup is plugged into exactly their target market via instantaneous procurement of their app.
It’s an irresistible sales model, such a clearly defined and accessible channel and is thus ideal for startups who don’t need to invent these from scratch. Back in 2020 TechCrunch asked if Zoom was going to be the next hot platform highlighting how these marketplaces are ideal for startup ecosystems.
Shopify’s marketplace is a magnitude larger again, boasting over 8,000 apps that enhance a merchants ability to sell more online, from workflow through email marketing and dropshipping, with major integrations such as enabling Spotify artists to embed e-commerce into their profile. ReferalCandy lists the Top 50 Shopify apps for growing your e-commerce store.