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Shifting from B2C to Me2B

Posted on: Monday 19th of September 2016

Next week, we (Ctrl-Shift) hold our annual Personal Information Economy (PIE) conference on Achieving Growth Through Trust.

We talk about the Personal Information Economy (PIE) because we are in the midst of a fundamental shift in the way our economy works – driven increasingly by personal data: not just data collected and used by organisations but also by individuals. This is driving the emergence of a new class of services (PIMS or Personal Information Management Services) and transforming how companies and their customers interact.

PIMS trigger two fundamental changes. First, they unleash new dimensions of consumer value, bringing decision support and life management into the fray (thereby subsuming many traditional products and services into bigger broader value offerings).

Second, they become a channel in their own right, diverting consumer time, attention and information away from other channels, just as ‘digital’ has diverted time and attention away from traditional advertising channels such as press and TV. The key point with PIMS is that it’s not just time and attention but also information. By enabling and leveraging trust-based information sharing between companies and customers, PIMS help unleash those new dimensions of value. Which is why so many large organisations are now taking such an interest in the PIMS opportunity.

The PIE encompasses all the new services, enabling infrastructure, norms, rules and tools that come with individuals being empowered with their own information. It’s the bigger economic shift of which PIMS are a catalytic part.

 

PIMS, PIE and … Me2B

So that’s two three-letter acronyms we’ve introduced: PIMS and the PIE. One more and we’re done: Me2B.

Me2B is the connecting tissue between PIMS and the PIE. It’s the operating model organisations increasingly have to adopt and adapt to as the PIE evolves.

If we go back to the industrial age there were basically two operating models: B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer). Me2B is what happens when the control shift around data takes place: when individuals start collecting and using data for their own purposes, and sharing data with other parties (including companies) under their control.

Me2B is enabled by a shift in the underlying flows of information that define our society from mainly ‘top down’ to mainly peer to peer and bottom up. Because it’s driven by advancing information technologies (including plummeting costs of information storage, processing and transmission) it’s pretty much inevitable and unavoidable.

But many companies are struggling to get their heads around Me2B. Why? Because ‘B2C’ is an integrated set of mutually reinforcing mental models, processes, infrastructure and defining features that all buckle, morph and shift as they hit Me2B. Here are a few examples.

  • Information flows      B2C models are, as we’ve said, driven by top down information flows, epitomized by mass TV advertising: a communication model based on a particular piece of technology infrastructure. Me2B is driven by peer to peer and bottom up flows of information – individuals talking to each other and to companies – enabled by new and different technology infrastructure: the Internet, mobile, and related services including personal data stores and other personal data management services.
  • Done to, or with? B2C businesses adopt a particular mental model. They see the business as the active party, doing things to and at consumers (researching them, targeting them, trying to change and ‘drive’ their behaviours) with consumers restricted to the role of choosing and consuming. Me2B sees individuals as the architects and producers of their own lives, drawing on suppliers’ inputs to help them achieve their goals. In Me2B, consumers are less ‘target’ and more instigator of interactions; not so much ‘choosing’ and more specifying.
  • Agents and agency To help them do all these things, consumers employ agents (PIMS) to act on their behalf, just as companies employ agencies and consultants. If B2C is characterized by doing things to and at consumers, Me2B is characterized by doing things with and for.
  • Data management In B2C companies collect consumer data, creating data silos defined by the boundaries of each organization. In Me2B individuals become the natural point of integration of their own data, creating rich new, never-seen-before data assets that organisations want to (and need to) access.
  • Data assets In B2C companies see customer data as a corporate asset. In Me2B, individuals increasingly see personal data as a personal asset.

 

Making the change

The rise of Me2B doesn’t mean the end of traditional B2C businesses. We still need companies that make stuff and sell it. But it does mean big changes in how they operate: their operating model.

The way that all the different factors intertwine and entangle – mental models and assumptions, technology infrastructure, embedded day-to-day processes – makes shifting from B2C to Me2B operating models quite a challenge. It doesn’t happen with a flick of some switch. It’s an evolutionary journey through which you build new skills, capabilities, relationships, mindsets, culture so on. For this you need a Road Map.

To start on this journey, come to our Conference. It’s the biggest most important journey to hit our economy since the industrial revolution, and you are a part of it.