As products blur and brand names lose their grandeur, it's services that sell. The services economy is ushering in a market opportunity that represents more than 50 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, and with the proliferation of innovative models raising service expectations among consumers, chief marketing officers are looking for new ways to step up their game.
According to a recent report from Accenture Interactive, marketers expect that during the next five years, they will have to spend more than 75 percent of their budgets on improving digital customer experiences to compete in the services economy. Alarmingly, more than 79 percent of them don't believe their companies will be ready for this emphasis on digital services.
"As high-growth companies demonstrate, digital's potential stretches way beyond a new distribution channel," the report states. "Digital represents a wave of transformational opportunities—and threats—that comprise the ecosystem in which we live, work, and play. In this digital world, technology is changing the game, and consumers are making—and breaking—the rules. That makes every business a digital business, whether it sells widgets or Wi-Fi. Every business requires a digital orientation, meaning a digital focus in all business processes and functions."
There's an art to building a digital platform worthy of competing in the services-oriented environment, Forrester analyst Tracy Stokes says. At the Forrester Customer Experience forum in June, Stokes praised brands that have made an effort to not only monetize on the services economy but also revolutionize it along the way. The one thing these service success stories have in common, Stokes says, is their commitment to being "TRUE"—trustworthy, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential.
A company that excels on all four fronts is car service provider Uber, which Stokes calls one of the most innovative and TRUE forces in the services economy. Stokes says consumers today are constantly connected to the Web through mobile devices and increasingly rely on smartphones and tablet apps to handle urgent needs effortlessly. That means not only providing an on-demand service quickly, but also ensuring that the process through which that service is ordered and delivered is an outstanding experience. "Uber gets this,"she says.
From its real-time cab location display to its user-friendly transactions, Uber is "unlike any other service," she explains. The app's car tracking capability, for example, is both remarkable and essential because it fills a gap in the market and does so in a memorable way. Uber cars can't be hailed like a yellow cab, but don't have to be ordered hours or days in advance like a traditional limo service. With a few taps on the Uber app, customers can order a car, pay for the ride, and track the car in real time as it makes its way to the pick-up location through Uber's iconic map display. "The company is a disruptive force," Stokes points out, "because it didn't set out to take on taxi services or limousine services but rather completely shakes up the space and brings together the best of both worlds."
The Uber app is trustworthy as well. Fare quotes are available for every ride, and once a cab is ordered, the user can see a photo of the driver, the driver's overall rating, and the license plate of the vehicle that will be arriving. "The company builds trust long before the service is delivered," Stokes says.
As for what makes Uber unmistakable, the now commonly heard phrase "Uberification of the economy" speaks for itself: Increasingly, brands are striving to zero in on a market need and deliver the kind of innovative on-demand service that Uber has made available.
Ultimately, for companies that are well-aligned along Forrester's TRUE brand compass, the goal is to keep moving forward. For ones that are losing their way, the time to get back on course is now.