As a child, Lisa Gansky must have received excellent marks in teamwork. Her new book The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing examines how strong peer-to-peer networks are changing the way products go to market. The book’s premise is simple: The future of business is one in which product ownership will be partly replaced by rental, sharing, and swapping. The so-called Mesh companies Gansky describes use data collected from social networks, mobile devices, and word of mouth to make perishable offers based on immediate wants and needs. Ganksy spoke with Editorial Assistant Juan Martinez about some of her favorite Mesh companies and why she thinks the Mesh ecosystem will thrive.
CRM magazine: What is a mesh company?
Lisa Gansky: The fundamental aspect of a mesh company is that physical goods and services can be shared. The notion of business is shifting from ownership to access. Netflix is a good example of a mesh company; it allowed consumers to stop buying DVDs and share them. Another example is Zipcar.
The mobile Web and social networking are fundamental parts of the mesh; the data that gets created there allow businesses to see new opportunities to make offers for products and services that can be shared or new kinds of partnerships that expand our peripheral vision about how to go to market to create more brand loyalty or more depth of relationship.
CRM: How has the recession paved the way for mesh-thinking companies?
Gansky: The recession has provoked something. We were happily going along buying things we didn’t need, whistling a happy tune, going into debt personally and as countries. The recession caused a (Gansky imitates the sound of brakes screeching). People and businesses have had a massive re-evaluation of value. As a result,you see services like Craigslist, eBay, and Freecycle really ramping up with lots of people figuring out how to give things away. I call it an own-to-mesh model where we own something but we want to put it part-time into a mesh network.
CRM: How will mobile phones help build and enhance mesh businesses?
Gansky: As marketers we have so many dials and switches to play with now. We’re just at the very beginning of this. We’re going to look at things like Facebook and Foursquare and we’re going to say three years from now that it all looked like the Ice Age. Ten years from now, it will be a completely different game.
If you’re a company with European or Asian colleagues, you’ll understand the way mobile is used there today is phenomenal and far ahead of how we’re using it here. For example: In Asia you can pay your electric and water bills with your mobile phone, which authenticates against your bank account. More and more apps like the Zipcar app are allowing you to walk up to a car having made a reservation, get in, and drive away. The same will
be true for hotel rooms. You’ll make a reservation for a room and there’s no need to go to reception. You’ll just walk through the lobby and your phone app unlocks your door and you’re in. We’re going to see interesting ways to make perishable offers in the right moment, in the right location, to precisely the right person. The way we used to market isn’t going to work. If you don’t know where your potential customers are, or if you don’t know how to speak to them, but your competitor does, there’s a big missed opportunity.
CRM: Why have partnerships become so important?
Gansky: If we think about how we go to market, the voice of the brand resonates with a particular cast of characters at the moment. We have a sense of who those people are and we’re trying hard to do two things: 1) Not lose them and 2) Expand the group. With partnerships you can do this. Think of Groupon. The sell-through these guys have had has been incredible.
CRM: How do mesh companies help foster a culture of sustainability?
Gansky: Here’s a great example: Roofs are sexy now. Before, if you owned commercial real estate you thought about how much square feet you’d get only for the inside of the building. But now roofs are really cool in a number of ways. Inside of cities, urban farming is all the rage. So you have things like the Brooklyn Grange Farm that’s an acre of rooftop urban organic farming in Brooklyn that provides to all these restaurants in the New York City area. If you look city by city, roofs are showing up as an asset and not just as the thing at the top of your building.
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