A personal stylist: now accessible to everyone!


The online access to clothing has enabled the emergence of many new business models within the fashion industry. We see subscription models that allow the customer to rent clothing for a fixed period (Rent The Runway) or a platform connecting stylists with customers to get personal styling advice (Keaton Row). At Stitch Fix, which is a US based firm, the website offers its customers the expertise of a stylist to buy new products. You are required to sign up, give some background information on yourself, on the style that you like, the type of items you are interested in and your size. After that the stylist will pick out a selection of products and the customer just has to wait for the package to land at the door.

Initially this business model was developed to serve the young professionals or executives who do not have the time to go shopping in store or online. But it appears that also people with less busy agendas are interested in the service as it allows you to have the help of a stylist when choosing pieces amidst the high number of available products (Drell, 2014).

The large variety of products available online has made it hard to choose which piece to buy.

At Stitch Fix the stylist will, based on your preferences and requests, show you the items she has picked. You can then give feedback and decide which items you want to try at home. Once you receive the package at home you can try and keep or send back the items you finally do not like (free of charge). You can personalize your demands according to your needs, your budget and the brands you love.

The styling advice costs $20 but as soon as you buy the pieces offered you do not have to pay it. This makes the barrier to use the service very low as the service provided ends up free of charge. You only pay the price of each piece that you decide to buy.

Based on what you buy the stylist can improve her recommendations and hence understand your preferences better every time you place an order. The platform also allows you to schedule the frequency of the package delivery, making it possible to systematically buy new products at the requested interval.

The advantages are the convenience of a stylist helping you to choose the best product, at whatever time, for the budget you want to spend and only paying for what you really like and keep.

In comparison with business models that allow you to rent clothing at a fraction of the purchase price this business offers you still the possibility to own the pieces and not having to return them afterwards. Renting pieces is attractive when you are looking for a piece for a special occasion, a one-time event. Whereas Stitch Fix allows you to buy products you love for every day without having to spend time searching webpages or clothing stores to find it.

The supplier side of the business also encounters many advantages. Stitch Fix can create very precise consumer profiles based on the purchases they have made and the feedback they have given the stylist. This gives the company valuable knowledge about why certain products work better than others. And this can be of use to the clothing industry to better serve the customer’s needs. Whether Stitch Fix works closely with producers is not known but it could be an option to expand its revenue stream.

Stitch Fix does not deliver its services outside of the US but if you are interested in trying it out, a European alternative exists developed by Zalando, and called Zalon.

 

References

 

Drell, L, 2014, 17 Unique Business Models Shaking Up the Marketplace. [ONLINE] Available at: http://mashable.com/2014/06/16/unique-business-models/#zZbyly5Qugqd. [Accessed 01 March 2017].

QLIQZ – Human Web Against Data Giants


Sick of giving away your data for free to data giants like Google, Facebook, and so on? You want to have control over your browser history, search terms, and advertisement when surfing the internet? You are annoyed by scrolling through a list of ads first when entering a term in Google Search? Then CLIQZ might be a very interesting alternative for you. 

CLIQZ combines search engine and browser. A quick search is performed directly in the browser, without having to go to another search engine. Search terms or names of a website are directly entered into the browser line. As done by other browsers, a selection of suggestions for websites appears, without you having to leave the current website.

The Human Web

Heart of the search engine is its algorithm, called Human Web, which ranks search results according to their relevancy, and not related to the content, structuring, and linking of websites as done under Search Engine Optimization. With the Human Web, CLIQZ makes use of the wisdom of the crowd – the community of users. The search algorithm of CLIQZ weighs data about people’s behavior on the web more than the technical analysis of websites. And the more data collected, the better is the search algorithm. But now you might think: “How is that different from Chrome or Firefox? They also collect my data.” In contrast to other search engines that build complete and detailed profiles on their users, CLIQZ only works with anonymous statistical data (CLIQZ Human Web, 2017).

Recent Development

CLIQZ recently hit the headlines with the acquisition of Ghostery, a browser plug-in and mobile app that enables its users to easily detect and control JavaScript “tags” and “trackers”, which allow the collection of the user’s browsing habits via cookies, as well as participating in more sophisticated forms of tracking such as canvas fingerprinting. By this acquisition, CLIQZ wants to increase its user base (AdAge, 2017).

Business Model Evaluation

Although the concept of CLIQZ  is widely described as very promising due to a global shift towards privacy awareness (EY Privacy Trends Report, 2016), this does not automatically lead to business success. Currently, CLIQZ  is a start-up backed by renown investors, namely Hubert Burda Media and Mozilla. As stated on their website, CLIQZ did not decide on how they will generate revenue (CLIQZ Support, 2017), but it should be compatible with the respect they have for our users’ privacy and with the core benefits of their product (direct, fast, clearly structured). Thus, making money like other conventional browsers (mainly through advertisements and search royalties) does not fit their strategy.

The single functions of CLIQZ and Ghostery are not new for consumers. If you do not want to be tracked, other options are already available on the market. Add-ons such as the Privacy Badger block scripts and cookies. The Tor browser offers even more anonymity. To avoid search engines such as Google, Startpage, for example, is also a privacy-friendly alternative.

However, CLIQZ provides a seamless integration of those single features into an encompassing solution. Next to this, the most useful differentiator of CLIQZ is its relevancy-based Quick Search. This combined functionality is currently the main reason for consumers to consider using CLIQZ as a default browser.


References

AdAge. Cliqz, a Mozilla-Backed Search Engine, Buys Privacy Extension Ghostery. Retrieved March 5, 2017 from http://adage.com/article/digital/cliqz-a-mozilla-backed-search-engine-buys-ghostery/307980/

CLIQZ. Human Web. Retrieved March 5, 2017 from https://cliqz.com/en/whycliqz/human-web

CLIQZ. Support. Retrieved March 5, 2017 from https://cliqz.com/en/support

EY Privacy Trends Report (2016). Can privacy really be protected anymore? Retrieved March 5, 2017 from http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/ey-can-privacy-really-be-protected-anymore/$FILE/ey-can-privacy-really-be-protected-anymore.pdf

How to understand Word-of-Mouth marketing in online communities?


Introduction
Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing is also known as social media marketing and leads to an intentional influence of consumer-to-consumer communication. Many marketers and sociologists recognize the importance of WOM as it affects many purchase decisions. WOM marketing is continuously changing as the Internet becomes more powerful; the accessibility, reach and transparency have empowered marketers to monitor WOM as never before.

The transformation of WOM
The researchers provide three WOM models before they discuss the research questions. These models are used as basic knowledge and as conceptual models in the paper.

Markets change so marketing theories should change as well to accommodate them. A review of the development of WOM is given in below and consists of three models. All three models currently coexist, and each pertains to different circumstances.

Model A
This model assumes that WOM occurs naturally among customers when marketers bring a new product to the market and perform an effective product notification through promotions and advertisement.

puk2

Model B
This model assumes that some consumers are viewed as opinion leaders. Marketers could target these opinion leaders to influence them with advertising and promotions. All the other consumers need to be influenced with advertising and promotions as well.

puk1

Model C
This model assumes that marketers have become more interested in directly managing WOM through targeted one-to-one communication programs. Marketers see consumers as co-producers of the value and meaning of WOM as the communication is produced in consumer network. This influence is creative and even hard to resist.

puk3

Research questions and findings
Three research questions are answered so that further understanding of the network coproduction model (model C) can be developed. The three questions are as follows; How do communities respond to community-oriented WOMM? What patterns do WOM communicator strategies assume? And Why do they assume these patterns? A blog-based campaign in six North American cities is used to answer the three research questions.

The findings indicate that differences are observed in the way the members of online communities respond to WOMM campaigns. The researchers introduce a new narrative model to show that a network of communication offers four different communication strategies; evaluation, embracing, endorsement and explanation. This is also shown in below. Each of them is influenced by character narrative, communication forum, communal norms, and the nature of the marketing promotion. Thus, WOM marketing does not simply increase marketing messages, but the messages are altered in the process of embedding them.

puk4

Strengths
The main strength of this paper is that the researchers provide a standpoint for both theoretical and managerial implications. For the theoretical part, the researchers focused on the motivations to participate in the bold new world of network coproduction of WOM. These motivations are more complex, culturally embedded and influenced by communities with moral hazard. This research is more extensively compared with previous research that indicates that consumers engage in online communication because of altruism, reciprocity or to gain a higher status (Dichter et al., 1966).
The managerial part offers several practical suggestions for managers and marketers who employ WOM marketing techniques. The paper convinces managers and marketers to understand that WOM marketing techniques should be presented in a way that it is congruent with the ongoing character narratives, communication forums, norms and WOM environment and that their provided new narrative model should be considered.

Weaknesses
A downside of this article is that the gathered data consists of textual, online blogs. The interpretation and analyzing of the most important parts of these textual blogs takes a lot of time and effort. The researchers are completely dependent on the participants’ productivity and writing skills. I would suggest the researchers to use different studies as well (case study, interviews etc.), especially in combination with textual blog data.
The last note is that the limitations of this paper have not been discussed. I would suggest to include the limitations to make the paper more reliable.

Sources
Kozinets, R. V., De Valck, K., Wojnicki, A. C., & Wilner, S. J. (2010). Networked narratives: Understanding word-of-mouth marketing in online communities. Journal of marketing, 74(2), 71-89.

Healthcare at the heart of the digital revolution


Nowadays, we are used to make appointments for the doctor, dentist or other healthcare specialists through the phone. We dial the number of the practice, we dial our way through a phone menu and in the end, after waiting in line for a couple of minutes, we reach the assistant who tells us when our desired specialist is available for an appointment. This appointment scheduling is a daily struggle for doctors and clients. There are 8 billion European doctor appointments booked annually and doctors spend 18 hours a week on average scheduling these appointments.

Doctolib
Doctolib is a French startup that aims to make this process more efficient. The SaaS (software as a service) doctor booking platform is a service that finds nearby health professionals at whom the client can book and track appointments online. Doctolib uses cloud computing and the internet to improve healthcare access for patients in France.

The startup consists of a community of over 17.000 specialists such as dermatologists, dentists, surgeons, gynecologists, urologists, ophthalmologists and allergists. Doctolib collaborates with 435 healthcare centers, such as hospitals, clinics and other establishments.
The service is able to help reduce booking costs of healthcare specialists up to 30% and simultaneously help decrease no-shows up top 75%. Furthermore, Doctolib puts specialists on the map and make them more visible to clients. Through this, specialists get around 20 new clients per month. For the Software, healthcare specialists pay a monthly fee of €99,-.

The main goal of Doctolib is to help healthcare specialists with their appointment scheduling with online reservations. Doctolib strives to deliver a seamless healthcare experience for healthcare specialists and patients.

doctolib

Competition
That all sounds very impressive, but there are several players on the market that offer online reservation systems. The main advantage of Doctolib over its competition is that it uses cloud computing. Doctolib tries to offer an innovative, integrated experience through the cloud, to give doctors a clearer, up to date overview of their schedule. This requires large amounts of human effort and the dedicated employees of Doctolib get this done. That is why Doctolib has a competitive advantage, higher customer satisfaction and a market share of 80%. 

Efficiency criteria
Doctolib can be seen as efficient business model since patients are better off, doctors are better off and there are no other firms on the market that offer similar integrated solutions. Doctolib creates value for clients and doctors, if more participants of both groups use the software, both parties maximize their profitability. 

Future
The software is now only available for doctors in France, but Doctolib is currently working on an expansion towards Germany. The long-term purpose for Doctolib is to take over the entire European market.

All things considered, Doctolib has a bright and promising future. I am very curious what Doctolib will bring to the healthcare industry and if the Netherlands will soon be conquered by this tech startup.

schermafbeelding-2017-03-05-om-11-02-05

Sources:
Tsekouras, D. (2016), Lecture 1: Introduction to value co-creation, Rotterdam School of Management.

http://tech.eu/brief/doctolib-series-c/

Doctolib Grabs $20 Million For Its Booking Platform For Doctors

http://vator.tv/news/2017-01-27-doctolib-a-booking-platform-for-doctors-raises-26m

Examining the antecendents and impact of different compnay product co-creation strategies


Co-creation, one of the hottest buzz words in management theory today. In a world where customers continue to become ever more important, why not let your customers help you make your next product?

What the paper examined

The researchers were curious what would drive a company to choose a certain co-creation strategy and how that strategy would impact product performance. They identified three different strategies of customer involvement in innovation: customer involvement as an information source (CIS), customer involvement as co-developers (CIC) and customer involvement as innovators (CIN).

Within CIS, customers have a more passive role in innovation, whilst in CIC they co-develop the product with the company. Companies using CIN let the customer develop the product himself, without any company intervention.

They also identified three different sets of drivers that influence which types of customer involvement companies use. Those were the nature of customer knowledge, the knowledge management strategy of the company and the implementation of knowledge management within the company. Each set had two different components, which can be seen in the framework below.

ccdc-partial-conceptual-framework

Afterwards, the researchers determined that the technological capabilities of a company influenced the way newly co-developed products perform. Adding this part to the research led to the following complete research framework.

conceptual-framework-academic-paper

How they investigated it

The researchers engaged in a partnership with Product Development and management Association. They sent all their members a survey on new product development trough co-creation with consumers. The survey asked respondents to rate questions like “We used customers as a key information source” and “We utilized designs that were created by our customers” on a seven point Likert scale. The researchers than ran a structural equation model to determine the outcomes and implications of the data.

What they found

In the end, they established that the choice for the three product co-creation strategies were influenced differently by the three involvement drivers. A takeaway of the most important results is provided in the table below.

Construct Results
Nature of customer knowledge Firms facing heterogeneous needs are more likely to engage in CIC and CIN.

Firms facing tacit needs are less likely to engage in CIS and CIC

Knowledge management strategy Market exploitation is more strongly associated with CIC than market exploration

Market exploitation is more strongly associated with CIS than market exploration.

Knowledge management implementation The effect of interfunctional coordination on CIC and CIS is significantly stronger than that on CIN

Strategic flexibility is more important for firms using CIN

Technological capabilities Technological capabilities of a company significantly influence product performance when a firm uses a CIC or CIN strategy

 

Why it matters

The value of the research is two-sided. Academic literature widely recognizes the challenges of implementing customer involvement, yet very few studies have examined the organizational mechanisms needed to overcome these challenges. Furthermore, the contribution of customer involvement to firm performance is still unclear. This study tries to fill that gap in research. From a managerial perspective, there is much to be gained from understanding what the researchers determine. Firms can look at the nature of their customers’ knowledge and their own knowledge management systems to determine the best way to co-create with consumers. Also, this research can also help predict the performance of those products. This helps in making investment decisions and determining innovation strategies.