How Renewable Energy Should be Traded.

As it might not be the “average” business model transformation we have witnessed over the past years, I firmly believe that this concept deserves a spot on a website that calls itself; Consumer Value Creation. I am not talking about another application that helps us find hedonic goods or that makes our life just a bit more easier. I am talking about a system that can shape our future by providing an incentive to transact and use green energy. I am talking about SolarCoin.

What is it?

The SolarCoin is based on the same concept as its older brother the BitCoin, namely blockchain technologies. After having experienced a difficult phase in the Gartners’ hype cycle, the potential of the Bitcoin has been higher than ever, and that is not only because of the growing demand from China. And yes I am aware of the recent plunge of the BitCoin. However, this is only a matter of growing pains (BusinesInsider, 2017).

Since it is evident that the middle class is not putting up longer with third party (political) power, the potential of these blockchain driven concepts are enormous. In case of the SolarCoin, anyone that produces solar energy could claim one SolarCoin per megawatt. Since the coin is currently worth around €0,11 it does not seems that attractive. However, it is expected that the coin will hit the €30 in the next couple of years which will provide people an incentive to start producing green energy (MO, 2016). Figure 1 shows the grant process of the solar coin.


Figure 1.

Efficiency Criteria

When assessing the current energy market, several problems come to mind. Of course, the major problem is the hunt for clean renewable energy, but also issues like third-party seizure, taxes, tracking, transaction costs, risks and theft should not be underestimated (Stanford, 2010). As these issues are widely acknowledged, the number of start-ups in energy land, which are using the SolarCoins as a currency, is booming. Power Ledger, for instance, is a Perth start-up that eliminates the current difficulties with one single solution. According to its CEO, this company aims to enable producers and consumers to trade their (green) energy directly, saving money, hassle and maximizing the use of rooftop solar. Carros (a village in southern-France) is another example of the use of blockchain in renewable energy. Note here that (1) not a single energy company is involved, (2) since it is private generated energy, initially no taxes will be paid, (3) there are no transaction costs, (4) risks and thefts are minimized and finally (5) because of this, people get stimulated to use and generate rather green energy instead of traditional energy (Cleantechnica, 2016) (GE, 2017) Figure 2 shows the village of Carros as an example and provides a simple overview of how this system could be designed.

Figure 2.


Despite the fact that this could be a silver bullet for our energy problem, I believe that the traditional incubents will keep on playing a role in the market. It is likely that companies like Power Ledger and currencies like SolarCoin will not replace anything. Where the blockchain technologies cover the transaction part of energy, it will remain unknown how questions like “Did those people deliver the power they promised they’d deliver?” and “Did they consume the power they promised they’d deliver?” would be answered (Microgridknowledge, 2016). The utilities industry is conservative for a reason; people are desperately relying on it.

Agencies like SolarCoin, Power Ledger and Carros are changing the way we deal with energy. Emphasis will mainly be put on the rich and middle-class communities since this is another form of peer-to-peer trading. In that perspective, the growing middle class in Asia and Latin America might provide us with a solution in terms of climate change instead of a problem.




Electronic Word-of-Mouth Versus Interpersonal Word-of-Mouth: Are All Forms of Word-of-Mouth Equally Influential?

Sometimes the human connection is the best form of advertising, all it takes is a study like this to prove it.

Word of Mouth

Customers are increasingly using social media when making purchasing decisions, and this paper seeks to explore in the influence that traditional word of mouth (WOM) and various forms of electronic word of mouth (eWOM) can have respectively. Meuter, Brown McCabe & Curran (2013), define WOM as, “any unpaid interpersonal communication between people, that affects attitude and purchase behaviour.” WOM recommendations come from personal connections and is therefore a key driver of success. Meuter, Brown McCabe & Curran (2013), define eWOM as, “any statement made by customers about a company that is available to many via the internet.” Social networking sites are aiding consumers in strengthening their networks, which means they have a wider audience (Meuter, Brown McCabe & Curran, 2013). This study was developed to investigate whether WOM is more influential then eWOM.

The Study

The study began with a qualitative phase, in which interviews were conducted with a small set of university students, who are desirable subjects due to their exposure to WOM and eWOM. Insights were taken from this step, such as the commonly used types of eWOM, and the key outcome variables were identified. The types of eWOM to be used in the study are Facebook, Yelp, and reviews on the businesses website. As well, the outcome variables to be used in the study are purchase intention, trust in WOM and attitude towards the firm.

Next they move onto the qualitative phase where students were the sample. The context of the survey scenario given was a restaurant located in a city that the respondent had never been. The only information given was from the four types of WOM. In order to compare the influence of each form of WOM, there were also different numbers of positive recommendations included. They outcome variables were each measured on a seven-point scale.

Interesting Findings

Overall, the study found that traditional WOM is more influential than eWOM. WOM was found to lead to customers having higher intentions of eating at the restaurant, higher levels of trust in WOM and more positive attitudes towards the restaurant. However, there was a difference in the impact that eWOM had. Facebook and Yelp were more influential than reviews on the company’s website. However, there was little difference between Facebook’s and Yelp’s outcomes which was interesting because of the personal connection that Facebook has. It proven that Facebook and Yelp were merely seen are unbiased sources of information. As well, it was found that the number of positive reviews from each WOM channel had little impact, which further proves that the platform is the influential component.


Real World Implications and Further Research

An interesting application of this study is how firms spend their marketing budgets. Companies spend a lot of time and energy on things like Facebook pages, but it was proven that interpersonal connections have the biggest overall impact. Firms can take this insight and apply it by encouraging more traditional WOM amongst consumers instead of focusing their entire effort on online tactics. Firms should especially not pursue new eWOM strategies at the expense of encouraging interpersonal eWOM. It is not that eWOM is completely ineffective, and eWOM strategies should still be maintained, but it is suggested that the focus merely be shifted to traditional WOM. A successful example of this is Bell, a Canadian telecommunications company, who through their Bell Let’s Talk campaign encourage customers to speak to each other about mental health, and by extension Bell (Quigley, 2016).

Bell-Lets-Talk-003-001For further research it would be interesting to see if providing negative instead of positive WOM would have the same pattern that was shown in this study or if the results would be entirely different because consumers would be viewing the information from a different perspective.

By Noa Zaifman



Matthew L. Meuter , Deborah Brown McCabe & James M. Curran (2013) Electronic Word-of-Mouth Versus Interpersonal Word-of-Mouth: Are All Forms of Word-of-Mouth Equally Influential?, Services Marketing Quarterly, 34:3, 240-256

Quigley, J. (2016, January, 27). Bell Let’s Talk Day lifted ‘cloak of secrecy’ around mental illness, say advocates. CBC News.

Retrieved from:


TD Banks’ Home Run!

The funny and interesting part about talking with customers is that the underlying concepts don’t change dramatically over time. The word service is still defined in the eye of the beholder. The only thing that might change is that new innovations are provided to that service. Being customer centric is about thinking through the entire experience of using a product of service. For example, if you visit Disney, would you have thought that parking your car should be a part of the magical experience? Yes, it is. It’s all part of the end-to-end journey and it’s not just going on the rides.

One of the companies that has considered this scenario and that you probably don’t expect is TD (Toronto Dominion) Bank – America’s most convenient bank. This company already provides services to its customers for more than 150 years and you can even bring your dog with you while you are doing your bank transactions. Also, its mission statement mentioned that TD bank will be the best run and totally customer-focused. But, how does this exactly work and what’s in it for the customer?  

In my opinion, every company claims to be a customer-centric organization. So, what makes TD Bank different? Theresa McLaughlin works for marketing department of TD Bank and mentions that TD Bank really lives the customer-centric focus day in and day out. For more than 10 years in a row, TD Bank has been ranked first in overall customers satisfaction on J.D. Power’s annual Canadian Retail Banking Satisfaction study (,2017). A big part of their competitive advantages leads to joint profitability and seems to be very simple; TD Bank listens to its customers across all channels and has been responsive to every customer feedback.  An institutional arrangement seems to appear as all employees spend a lot of time on the customer journey to create an emotional connection with the customers. They know that this is really important as it results in happy and loyal customers.

Another strenght of TD Bank is that they are committed to understand and connecting to what matters most in the community where they work and live. TD Bank takes it institutional environment very serious as it helps to foster positive and lasting change in the society through local community support, investments and volunteer services. In 2015, $62.9 million was provided to non-profit organizations, 1,002 green project has been started and 1 in 3 kids has been reached through TD-sponsored children’s literacy programs in Canada. (TD Bank, 2015)

Last, TD Bank says thank to you…. and means it! Other institutional arrangements come in when we take a look at TD Banks’ annual customer appreciation event(s) which they organize every year. For example, they organizes their own ‘Customer Appreciation Days’ on which they give free coffee and cake to every customer.  In addition, three years ago, the ATMS were turned into automated thanking machines and then the magic happened; TD  Bank took the effort to give personalized gifts to its customers.

We can conclude that TD Bank is a customer centric driven company. The company takes it responsibility, takes care and listen to their customers. This results in a situation where both firm and customers are better off.


Harris, R. (2015) TD BANK’S WINNING APPROACH TO CUSTOMER SERVICE (Q&A) [online]. Available at: [ Accessed 8 Mar. 2017]

TD Bank, (2015). Corporate Responsibility Report. [online] TD Bank. Available at: [Accessed 8 Mar. 2017].


JoyRun: Deliveries For Friends by Friends

In the United States – a wave of community sentiment is developing among millennials, one in which many of the inconveniences of life can be, in part, alleviated by our fellow neighbor.  One such inconvenience is picking up a bite to eat or grabbing extra toiletries from the local pharmacist.  As a result, we get a new service / network platform that looks to address this common hassle – JoyRun.

JoyRun is a new service that allows all community users to set up “runs” to any location in a given area.  Once a run has been posted, everyone in the community can see it, request an item be purchased on their behalf and then have it delivered to their home.  In exchange for this service, the person making the trip, can charge a nominal fee of $2 or $3 per person.  The result is that within an hour’s time or less, student’s working furiously on their assignments can get food, toiletries or any other important item delivered to their home for a nominal fee.  Those making the run, often can make $15 to $20 a trip that can span less than an hour.  Better yet, all the money is exchanged via the app, so you won’t have to deal with change at all.

JoyRun is primarily focusing on college campuses to establish its core consumer base.  To join the JoyRun movement – individuals must possess a valid student email address to join their college’s community.  Once confirmed, users are asked to create a profile and update their payment information – and the runs can now begin.  Once assigned to a community, individuals can request to opt-in to a “run”, ordering items from a predetermined menu for a given restaurant, they can start their own run to either a specific location or to an unspecified location, or they can request a run be made on their behalf to a specific location – offering a set compensation for the favor.  In all, it’s another example of crowd-solutions to a common life hassle.  After delivery and payment of your items, community users can rate their experience, thus quickly separating the good “runners” from the mediocre ones.

In terms of monetization, the developers of the app are currently allowing transactions to occur without a fee, however, as the community matures, that is likely to change, and one can expect to pay a transaction fee to JoyRun directly.  Another form of monetization is advertising, as well as featuring certain restaurants and small business to a given community – either through specials or premium prominence within the app. 

Overall, I think the app has a very strong chance of becoming successful – however, it must be cognizant that continued and consistent community involvement will be crucial.  In order for users to want to use JoyRun, they must have users who will conduct runs during peak times on a college campus – and college students can be flaky to say the least.  Furthermore, JoyRun will become even more successful if it gets major support from local business who will be the major driver of product diversification and convenience to the end consumer. 


It looks like JoyRun will have a bright future and I look forward to using it more myself.



Airbnb Trips – The Next Move Towards Conquering the World

“The stuff that matters in life is no longer stuff. It’s other people. It’s relationships. It’s experience.” – Brian Chesky, Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb

What is your purpose of travel? Is it food? Is it fun? Is it meeting new, inspiring people? Is it getting to know new cultures? Travel is about meaningful moments, experiences you make that you will never forget. But how do you find those places for magical experiences? On TripAdvisor? Go to TripAdvisor and search for “Things to Do” in your home town: Hop-on-Hop-off buses, overpriced boat tours, Madame Tussaud’s… Have you as a local, ever done one of those activities? Most likely you will say: “That’s just something tourists do.”

To prevent travelers from stepping into tourist traps, Airbnb recently presented its’ new offering – the world of trips:

Airbnb knows what travelers want – the ultimate local experience. The previous, successful years resulted in a platform offering millions of homes around the entire world to tourists that no longer want to stay in anonymous hotels. But CEO Brian Chesky realized that homes are just one single part of a great journey. A great journey lets you immerse in and join the local community. With the new product Airbnb Trips, also experiences and places will all be available in the app. So, what are those new features?

  • Experiences: The offered activities are not just organized by city, but also by passion, for example Sports, Nature, Social Impact, or Food. The available experiences can take from a couple of hours up to multiple days. Every offered experience is presented in a short video. About half of the trips are offered at a price below $200 (Airbnb: Experiences, 2017).
  • Places: Within this function, local legends list their top things to do in an “insider guidebook”. Additionally, also audio walks and meet-ups are featured.

Business Model Evaluation

What is the value added for the three main parties involved in Airbnb’s business model?

Consumers (travelers) – For travelers, the extension of Airbnb’s offerings provides a great value added, because the platform becomes a One-Stop-Shop for your entire travel. This will reduce the time necessary to prepare trips and give you new local insights during your holidays. Of course, this comes at high costs: 55€ for a sunset bike ride in Tokyo or 98€ for a 3h-cocktail workshop in San Francisco can not be afforded by budget travelers.

Providers (guides) – From now on, you can also become a host for activities. When deciding to become a host, you have to apply and Airbnb checks the experience for certain quality standards. The best experiences offer guests access participation, and perspective (see Figure 1). Next to monetary profit, the benefits are also non-financial: get more exposure for what you love, promote your brand, and meet locals like you (Airbnb: Become A Host, 2017).

Bildschirmfoto 2017-03-07 um 11.46.39
Figure 1. Assessed Quality Standards for Experiences (Airbnb: Quality Standards for Experiences, 2017)

Platform (Airbnb) – With this business model extension, Airbnb wants to become the platform for your entire trip. By embedding new features like restaurant recommendations and an integrated reservation system, Airbnb seems to aim at replacing existing platforms like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Motivation of this move clearly is Airbnb’s transition from a website for booking accommodation to a full-service travel company, which comes along with increasing its user-base and revenue. For Experiences, Airbnb brokers the payment from the user to the guide and takes a commission, similar to how its home-booking service works. For Places, the company has some revenue-sharing deals in place, like a partnership with Resy to book restaurant reservations. Also, the market for travel activities is still underserved and promises large potential. So far, only small vendors like Klook, I Like LocalPeek and Viator offer a comparable service. However, their offerings are very “touristy” and generic. Additionally, Airbnb can leverage its popularity to quickly establish its offering.

Feasibility of Required Reallocations

Internal ArrangementsAirbnb Trips is more or less an extension from providing accommodation to additionally providing activities and tours. However, this requires further administrative effort, especially related to the quality standards assessment. This assessment is necessary to assure a local and personalized experience, so that Airbnb can clearly differentiate from competitors. Also, videos for every experience have to be created.

External Environment – Airbnb already radically disrupted the global hotel industry by applying the principle of the sharing economy (Zervas, Prosperito & Byers, 2014). With its business, the platform did not only antagonize hotels, but also governments that try to proceed against housing shortage (Jefferson-Jones, 2014; Lee, 2016), coming along with several law-suits in major cities like Berlin, New York and San Francisco. The extension of its offering will most certainly not reduce Airbnb’s number of critics. For example, the ‘ownership of an experience’ is very difficult to assess. Who should get the money, when a guide shows you around a market? Don’t the market traders also deserve a proportion for being essential for the experience? Next to legal conflicts, a discussion about the social impact can be initiated. The commercialization of local experiences may destroy the original selling point of unique, original travel impressions.

All in all, Airbnb Trips moves the platform beyond its’ couch-surfing origins. The offering is clearly targeting the “emotionalization” of travel experiences, a next step in the service economy. This is a great possibility for travelers (who have the budget) to make unique memories. However, it comes at the cost of commercializing the local charm for the sake of profits. Airbnb should be careful and hold up high quality standards (e.g. small groups, special experiences) so that it does not destroy it’s newly designed value proposition.


Airbnb: Become A Host. Retrieved March 7, 2017 from

Airbnb: Experiences. Retrieved March 7, 2017 from

Airbnb: New. Retrieved March 7, 2017 from

Airbnb: Quality Standards for Experiences. Retrieved March 7, 2017 from

Jefferson-Jones, J. (2014). Airbnb and the housing segment of the modern sharing economy: Are short-term rental restrictions an unconstitutional taking. Hastings Const. LQ, 42, 557.

Lee, D. (2016). How Airbnb Short-Term Rentals Exacerbate Los Angeles’s Affordable Housing Crisis: Analysis and Policy Recommendations. Harv. L. & Pol’y Rev., 10, 229.

Zervas, G., Proserpio, D., & Byers, J. W. (2014). The rise of the sharing economy: Estimating the impact of Airbnb on the hotel industry. Journal of Marketing Research.

Banking value creation

The banking business has changed dramatically during the last decade. The development of new IT systems, mobile banking and other electronic banking services via multiple electronic channels has made it possible for the banking industry to create more and more value for their customers. The increasing diffusion of mobile phones and the banking applications is the basis of electronic banking nowadays and banks are competing to create the best value and services for their customers (Pousttchi and Schurig, 2004). Because, let’s be honest, if you want to switch to another bank, besides a couple of administration effort, you could easily do that. So, what’s holding you back?

Banks allow their customers to check the balance and transactions of their accounts, pay invoices and transfer funds between accounts, make buy-and-sell orders for the stock exchange etc. etc. The understanding of service user behaviour is one of the most basic requisites of service development (Laukkanen & Lauronen, 2005). Customers views and needs are changing every day and if you look at service development, banks need to change as well. But the needs are unsure and short-timed and it is necessary for banks to develop knowledge of customer perspective about their online services. To develop this, banks need a deeper insight into aspects of consumer psychology and decision-making.

ING is, nowadays, one of the foreman’s as it comes to mobile banking service in the Netherlands. ‘’We create value by providing products and services that help people to improve their lives and fuel economic growth. ING’s purpose – empowering people to stay a step ahead in life and in business- is reflected in ING’s structure, strategy and in the values and behaviours we embrace’’, is one of their mission statements.  Specifically, ‘’ING creates value by helping our customers secure their financial futures, by supporting people when making life changing decisions, through seamless processing of transactions, and by empowering customers to have greater insight into their financial affairs.’’

Banking is a very personal data and ING needs to make sure that these data is handled with care. To use this data, ING tell us that it is in our best interests that transactions are processed correctly. Next to these transactions, by giving permission to their cookies, they can view our browsing behaviour and, via this way, ING can give us tailored information and special offers.

ING has formulated the following goals for using our data:
1. Improving customer service
2. Countering fraud and cybercrime
3. Operational excellence
4. Diminishing risks (e.g. reducing payment arrears)
5. Creating commercial opportunities.

This brings us back to the question: why would you stay at your bank? Me, as a customer of ING, am not looking at interest percentages or any financial reasons to stay at ING. I am looking at their service and the easiness of using their applications. Via this way, and looking at the efficiency criteria (CDCC,2017) by decreasing my effort and increasing my usage of their apps by all the new add-ons I cannot think of a reason to switch banks. By retaining their customers ING can use their data to keep improving their services and by this joint profitability customers will stay at ING. A good way of using your own consumers to create value.