Tag Archives: iTunes

Why Customer Experience Is Key

Disruption is inevitable, and no organization is immune. Findings from McKinsey suggest that the current pace of disruption is happening 10 times faster than the Industrial Revolution, at 300 times the scale, and with 3,000 times the impact. This is an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to thrive, but at the same time an unprecedented threat to slower-moving organizations, which may end up allowing themselves – or their industry – to be disrupted.

“We are at the precipice of unbelievably powerful advancements driven by technology. We no longer have to ask if we can do it, but if we should do it, and, if we do, how do we do it responsibly,” says Eric Boyum, managing director, technology and communications industry, at Aon.

Embracing disruption – both managing it and anticipating it – is crucial for businesses to thrive during this change. But what constitutes disruption, and how does it differ from innovation? Putting the customer experience first and truly understanding audience needs is critical. From agility to forward-thinking industry trends, established organizations can learn from newcomers and help their teams innovate on behalf of customers – key to thriving amid change.

In Depth

Today, innovation and disruption confront many industries, driven by a host of entrepreneurial firms looking for opportunities to beat incumbents at their own game. The situation becomes even more interesting, however, when entrepreneurs are a leading force in creating a new game.

Boyum, who works with some of the world’s leading technology companies, offers a key distinction between innovation and disruption: “All those that participate in disruptive movements can be considered innovators – however, not all those that innovate are necessarily disruptors.”

Randy Nornes, executive vice president, Aon Risk Solutions, elaborates: “Disruption does not come from typical competitors,” where most companies traditionally focus their defensive efforts. Instead, disruptors often originate from outside the industry being disrupted – which means established players don’t recognize what’s happening until too late. The disruptor then captures and develops a market, eventually unseating incumbents.

See also: Key to Digitizing Customer Experience  

When Apple released its first smartphone in 2007, it probably wasn’t looking to transform the transportation industry. But it turned out that putting a GPS unit in the pockets of billions of people across the world would crack open a whole universe of commercial applications inconceivable to the original inventors. Uber, the paradigmatic “disruptor,” was quick to see the opportunity.

Smartphone technology was available to everyone. Uber’s ability to capitalize on Apple’s innovation and aggressively outpace incumbents in the taxi industry through offering cheaper, more flexible rides, marked it out as a true disruptor. It is now the most valuable private company in the world.

Apple itself was, of course, also a disruptor. It jumped on the then-new technology of file-sharing with iTunes and disrupted (many would say fatally) the physical music retail industry. Spotify, in turn, disrupted iTunes by putting subscription streaming ahead of paid downloads.

It’s not just about innovating and making products better – it’s about anticipating consumer needs. This type of disruption often comes from new players, as opposed to traditional competitors. “The company that provides the most taxi rides does not own any taxis; the company that rents the most rooms does not own any rooms, and the company that distributes the most media does not generate any content,” Boyum says. “These companies are, of course, Uber, Airbnb and Facebook.” They got there not by being the best in their field at providing a certain product but by providing a completely new one.

Data for the People

“We’ve seen entire industries emerge because they promise something to the end-user: a better customer experience,” Nornes says. Uber could have made bigger, plusher taxis. Instead, it correctly saw that what travelers wanted out of their experience wasn’t necessarily luxury but affordability and convenience of a kind that traditional taxis had yet to provide.

Through a data-driven understanding of audience or a market, disruptors seek to prioritize customer experience and work to improve the status quo – often creating a new one. “A lot of sharing economy companies focused on technology and new ways of capturing data,” Nornes says. “In the transportation world, disruptors leveraged the GPS technology that’s inside a smartphone to create a superior service.” In turn, this data has been used in other ways to improve the ridesharing services. An Uber passenger can feed back data via ratings, which the company can then leverage to further optimize user experiences and create a model that is, to an extent, self-regulating.

This data-led process of transformation is set to intensify. By 2020, there could be 20 billion internet-of-things devices worldwide. Understanding the emergent narratives of consumer behavior that this enormous mine of data produces will be the first order of business for tomorrow’s would-be disruptors.

The Ripple Effects of Disruptive Innovation

“The most important lesson to learn is that disruption can happen to everyone – no one is immune,” Boyum says. This disruption can come in many forms, other than direct competition.

Nornes asks: “How do you deal with independent contractors? How will regulations evolve? What are the talent implications – do companies have the necessary disruptive talent to keep ahead of competitors?” Some of the more wide-reaching implications of disruption could include:

Insurance & Regulations: Businesses don’t operate in a vacuum – from insurance to regulations, they are governed by a complex network of secondary services, which will also have to adapt to disruption. Current insurance policies are built on certain assumptions about how customers engage with products or services. Initially, Uber struggled with getting its drivers insurance coverage, as providers had no products that accommodated the unique risks of non-employee drivers – of course, disruption here also means an opening of markets for new products.

There must also be responses to the shifting nature of work in the gig economy. Is an Uber driver a freelancer using an app, or should he be treated – and compensated – as a full employee?

Employment & Talent: Headlines proclaiming an unemployment doomsday at the hands of automation are abundant. Don MacPherson, partner, Global Engagement Practice at Aon Hewitt, frames this as a hiring and retention issue: “Are we still going to be able to bring people into this organization as we’re seen to be shedding jobs that are now obsolete?”

But, he explains, organizations should relish the opportunity to transform their talent and training strategies. Incumbents should look at what innovators are doing: What types of talent are they bringing on? How flexible is that talent? And, perhaps most importantly, are they fostering functions like R&D, which will allow them to leverage their disruptive capabilities in a competitive environment?

Societal Impact: Models that disrupt multiple industries, like the sharing economy, also have widespread societal implications. A firm like Airbnb disrupts far more than just hospitality incumbents. Homesharing can create incentives for more buy-to-rent activity, which causes distortions in rental markets as prices rise. This, in turn, can provoke regulatory responses from local governments – which affect the whole housing landscape, rather than just the operations of one company. And so they have, in Paris, San Francisco and New York.

The onus is on the disruptors to communicate the benefits they bring for all stakeholders. For instance, customers enjoy ridesharing because it’s more affordable and convenient, but reducing the number of cars on the road also helps fight pollution. Similarly, flat-sharing could emphasize the tourism revenue it generates.

See also: Smart Things and the Customer Experience  

Disrupting for Tomorrow

If companies can perform this balancing act – from embracing new technologies, models and services around consumer needs, to preparing for the unknowns that disruption can bring – then they can find huge success in the coming years.

“Disruption is the result of dramatic innovation. And whether business models rise and fall on this is not the point,” Nornes says. Disruption is a bigger trend than the fortunes of an individual company – it’s the rise of new ways, perhaps better ways – of doing things. By recognizing evolving customer needs and forcing new ways of thinking within an organization, companies and their leaders can make sure they are on the right side of history.

 

How On-Demand Economy Can Prosper

Even some of the most successful innovators in history would tell you, “Don’t quit your day job.” George Eastman worked full-time while tinkering in his mother’s kitchen on the inventions that let him found Eastman Kodak in the late 1880s. A century later, Steve Wozniak worked at Atari while developing the computer that he and Steve Jobs would turn into Apple. The fact is: No matter how great the idea, or how great a worker’s skill, it’s hard to mesh with an existing enterprise or any other group.

The reason is explained by Nobel laureate economist Ronald Coase in his influential 1937 essay, “The Nature of the Firm.” He theorized that people choose to organize themselves in companies and corporations rather than contracting their services out directly because of transaction costs. He cited: search and information costs; bargaining and decision costs; and policing and enforcement costs. “Within a firm, these market transactions are eliminated, and in place of the complicated market structure with exchange transactions is substituted the entrepreneur coordinator, who directs production,” he wrote.

Essentially, marketing, selling, pricing, negotiating and getting paid as a self-employed person isn’t all rainbows and unicorns – the work critical to running a business can be enormously complicated, time-consuming and costly.

Thanks to technology, much has changed since 1937. Mobile connections, broadband and ubiquitous data have reduced transactional search and information costs considerably. It is much easier, faster and economical for a small business to effectively compete with larger firms.

There has been a major shift in our buying behavior, too – consider how profoundly Amazon or iTunes has altered the way we discover, compare and purchase goods. Companies like Uber have used technology to reduce our search and information costs, as well as our bargaining and decision costs and policing and enforcement costs. If reducing one transactional cost shifts the economy, then reducing all three transforms it….

We are now officially unlocking the potential of the on-demand economy – one that will revolutionize the 21st century workplace and workforce. It’s so new, we haven’t decided on a name for it yet; it goes by various monikers like Uberization, the gig economy, the on-demand economy, the access economy and the peer-to-peer economy.

This on-demand economy offers the exchange of goods and services between individuals instead of from business to consumer. The people providing goods and services aren’t necessarily employed by the company connecting them with the customer, either. Many are independent contractors or freelancers.

Technology acts as the intermediary automating the handling of pricing and payments, vetting providers through a user-rating system and matching providers with consumers’ needs. This intermediary speedily brings together supply and demand via a platform that can be controlled by an app on any mobile device. The platform makes information available and accessible in the manner most efficient for the business, ensuring that transactions that are started are more likely to be concluded. The platform often obviates bargaining, directly polices its members, enables community-driven self-policing and enforces the terms of interaction. The costs of this coordination is added to each peer-to-peer transaction.

The new economic model is a highly efficient, productive and cost-effective marketplace. Platforms like Luxe, Lyft and Uber offer transportation services; Caviar, Doordash and Munchery deliver food from local restaurants; Instacart will shop for and deliver grocery orders; AirBnB, HomeAway and Onefinestay connect renters and homeowners offering available space with people seeking accommodations; Handy, Taskrabbit and Thumbtack will help a household find an available plumber, drywaller, cleaner or furniture assembler; and delivery services like Postmates and Shyp will pick up, pack up and send packages.

There appears to be no lack of supply or demand in this rapidly evolving phenomenon. Almost 53 million Americans currently serve as providers to on-demand platforms, at least part-time. Having goods and services on demand satisfies our need for “instant gratification” and allows consumers to find a broad array of competitively priced services 24/7 – they can get what they want, when they want with the touch of a few buttons.

The advantages for providers are many, too. No longer saddled with the time-consuming chores of the self-employed, like marketing and promoting services, negotiating transactions or chasing down payments, the on-demand economy provides freelancers with a turnkey, hassle-free method of accessing a large market of ready-and-willing customers whenever they want to work. It’s freelance freedom and flexibility with almost no barriers to entry.

You don’t need to be an economist to envision how the on-demand economy business model can benefit the marketplace as a whole: The Ma & Pa local restaurant that can easily deliver through a fleet without incurring staffing costs can substantially expand its market and service underserved markets. People can now use their cars to transport passengers and generate income rather than leave vehicles parked in driveways, resulting in a very good use of underutilized resources;. And, when a student can help an eBay seller package and deliver parcels on the fly, a job and professional support network are created that had not previously existed.

The new economy is here. It’s poised to democratize the marketplace and its workforce by maximizing underused assets, creating jobs, expanding markets and meeting the needs of underserved markets, all while creating a faster, easier way for us to get what we want, when we want it.

But this new business model comes with new world challenges as the distinction between personal and commercial activities becomes blurry. To thrive, policymakers, regulators, insurers and the companies enabling the new economy will have to work together to design a platform that protects consumers when they are operating as businesses.

Can We Disrupt Ourselves?

Brian Duperreault, CEO of Hamilton Insurance Group, delivered these remarks to the recent Global Insurance Forum, held by the International Insurance Society (IIS) in New York City.

It’s a real pleasure to be with you at what is arguably one of the most important annual events in our industry.

I was just 18 years old when the International Insurance Society had its first global meeting in Austin, Texas. I entered the industry in my 20s and joined the IIS in my 30s.

Since then, I’ve benefitted professionally and personally from the knowledge I’ve gained and the friends I’ve made at these annual meetings.

Today, I’m going to talk about an issue that represents a distinct threat to our industry. I might even go so far as to call it an existential threat.

But, like all threats, it also represents a great opportunity.

In it could lie the seeds of a legacy of meaningful change for each of us charged with leading our industry.

So I’m going to address the question: Can we disrupt ourselves?

I’m going to start by saying a few words about Twitter.

Bear with me. I do have a point to make that’s relevant to insurance. Twitter has one billion registered users so far… about one human out of every seven on Earth.

Only 6% of Twitter users are over the age of 45. More than 300 million active users—most of them under 45—join Twitter each month.

Twitter started as a platform for sharing personal moments. It’s morphed into an information delivery system that plays a major role in distributing news, marketing products and affecting the outcome of political and social developments.

And this instant, real-time communication comes with the restriction that you can only use 140 characters to get your message across.

Twitter’s simple idea completely disrupted the way we communicate. I used Twitter as an example of disruption last week when I spoke at the Young Professionals Global Forum in London. I called that speech “Risk in 140 Characters.”

Since then, the CEO of Twitter has stepped down amid charges that the platform isn’t evolving as quickly as it should, and there’s been a lot of soul searching about how this disruptive form of social media can keep current in this ever-changing, ever-evolving age of disruption.

In spite of Twitter’s challenges, I believe the metaphor is a good one. It’s time to select, analyze and price risk, faster and more efficiently – the equivalent of risk in 140 characters.

The young professionals I spoke to last week are all digital natives. As Don Tapscott, who studies the digital economy, says: They’ve been bathed in bits since they were born.

They embrace technology and use it to navigate their world, their relationships and their work swiftly and creatively.

These digital natives are mobile, wireless and connected with their peers all over the globe.

Meanwhile, in the other corner, I—and most of my friends here in this room—are digital immigrants. We’ve had to make a deliberate and conscious choice to adapt to digital ways of doing what we used to do on paper, over the telephone, or through other physical or, at best, analog, means.

Even though it was our generation who invented the Internet, many of us have the feeling of being strangers in a strange land. Using search engines and apps to navigate life and work doesn’t come naturally to us.

We digital immigrants tend to shun social media or dabble around the edges, still thinking Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat and Instagram are trendy chat rooms where younger people tell everybody what they’re up to a thousand times a day.

But the truth is that social media, which erupted onto the scene as a means of personal contact, has quickly morphed into a powerful engine of collaboration with profound ramifications for business development.

Digital natives know that. And because they know it, and use that knowledge to great effect, they are leaping ahead of the digital immigrants in our generation.

There’s a term for this: digital lapping. And this lapping of one generation by another is the basis for the disruption that’s blowing apart traditional business models. For digital natives, disruption is the new normal.

You know what I’m talking about. How many music stores saw iTunes coming? How many taxi dispatchers saw Uber coming? How many hotel chains saw Airbnb coming?

How many Blackberry execs even saw the iPhone coming? Well, maybe they saw the iPhone coming, but it’s an understatement to say their reaction was too little, too late.

Pick any industry, and you can see the pattern emerging.

The automotive industry is a telling example. Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler, recently said he’s “more determined than ever to pursue industry consolidation lest technology disrupters beat the auto industry at its own game.” Marchionne’s warning came after a meeting at Google and Tesla, and after spending almost an hour in a driverless car.

“The agenda needs to be moved,” he said, “or all these technology disrupters will come in and make our life incredibly uncomfortable.”

Clearly, all industries are facing massive disruptions because of technology. With new models of service delivery, new categories of products and restructured value chains, society and the customer expect far more than traditional businesses can offer.

These expectations represent a potentially bleak scenario for the insurance industry, because in many respects we are way behind the curve as far as technology is concerned.

And we are groping in the dark for an effective solution to attract digital natives to the industry.

Digital natives are the much-discussed, much-researched Millennials.

Born in the eighties and nineties, they’re the offspring of the Baby Boomers. They’re sometimes known as Echo Boomers or the App Generation.

Millennials are the most diverse generation we’ve ever had. In the US, 35% are non-white, and researchers who study generational differences say they are the most tolerant generation yet, believing everyone should be part of the community.

We’ve been studying Millennials for quite a while, so we know a lot about them:

  • They want to be team players.
  • They want their careers to have purpose.
  • They want to build new things that matter.
  • They use social media to collaborate. They crowd-source everything from fundraising to business capital.
  • They fight for worthy causes by alerting each other to things that distress them.
  • They don’t see much difference between work and leisure, and don’t see the point of rigid work schedules and being tied to an office.
  • They see hierarchy as an obsolete impediment to team progress. They need to get things done, and waiting for permission doesn’t strike them as sensible.

Now, does that list describe how the typical insurance company operates? I don’t think so.That’s a red flag that we need to pay attention to. Consider this:

  • Almost half of insurance professionals in the U.S. are over the age of 45.
  • 25% of all the people working in our industry will be eligible to retire in just three years.
  • That means that, in just five years, there will be 400,000 open positions in the U.S. alone.

Five years ago, Accenture warned that it’s hard to attract Millennials to a career in insurance. Accenture noted that “the industry’s apprentice structure—with its long learning curve and slow promotions—in no way suits a Millennial’s expectation of getting rapid feedback, or working in a flat organization that offers dynamic career development.” Since then, more alarm bells have been rung.

Recently, a report found that only 5% of high school and college graduates thought a career in insurance was worth looking at. When asked why, they said they thought the industry was dull and conservative and doesn’t offer much of a chance to make a difference.

For someone whose whole career has been dedicated to an industry that promises to protect, that really hurts. At the very least, we’ve done a terrible job in helping people to understand the value in what we do.

With hundreds of thousands approaching retirement in an industry that’s dismissed as boring and static, and with disruption looming on the horizon, I believe we’re staring into the jaws of a crisis.

Millennials are not only our future workforce, they’re our future customer base. And our industry, quite simply, is not prepared to attract the numbers we need, with the skills we need, to take charge of the disruption we know is coming.

The men and women in this room have presided over some of the great developments in our industry: Catastrophe modeling, deregulation and globalization all happened on our watch.

We’re not strangers to bold moves. Innovation isn’t a foreign concept.

But collectively we don’t seem to know how to crack this nut: How do we attract hyper-connected, entrepreneurial digital natives into the generally old-school world that so desperately needs them?

I know there are pockets of energy devoted to finding a solution to this problem.

MyPath has been established by the Institutes and affiliates as an industry-led effort to raise awareness of insurance as a career, and to provide information about the industry as well as job opportunities. Hamilton USA, the US operations of Hamilton Insurance Group, is one of the industry partners participating in MyPath.

And there’s Tomorrow’s Talent Challenge, an awareness campaign established by Valen, which provides predictive analytic and modeling capabilities to the industry.

Valen is so concerned about the lack of interest the digital generation is showing in insurance that it created Tomorrow’s Talent Challenge “as a rallying cry for the insurance industry to band together to sell exciting, innovative careers in insurance to Millennials.”

These are laudable efforts – driven by the same sense of urgency that I’m outlining here.

But they’re not enough.

We need a focused, coordinated strategy embraced by some of the major players in our industry.

We need a collaborative commitment like the one announced a few months ago.

In January, as many of you know, a consortium of eight companies from our sector announced a far-reaching initiative to provide insurance to the underserved. My company is proud to be one of the partner companies.

We referred to the new entity as the Microinsurance Venture Incubator – or MVI. Quite a mouthful.

This morning, we announced that the venture has a much better name.

After inviting more than 100,000 employees in our partner companies to help us name the MVI, we chose Blue Marble Microinsurance. This is a great name. It really captures the spirit of our venture. It reminds us of how connected we all are – ever more so in this digital age.

Blue Marble Microinsurance takes a holistic view of our world, planning to extend protection to a broader portion of the population by providing insurance in a socially responsible and sustainable way.

It offers people on the wrong side of the digital divide the stability and potential for growth that insurance makes possible.

Blue Marble Microinsurance’s company partners know that the ability to manage and finance risk is critical to the development of society – any society, but most urgently to those struggling to gain a stable toehold in their pursuit of education, jobs and a prosperous future.

Research and development enabled by Blue Marble Microinsurance will bring affordable insurance products to the developing world.

Technology is at the base of this global project, using innovative apps to connect consumers and products on a micro level – but what drives it is our industry’s collaboration, our sense of purpose and our focus on the future.

What we learn from Blue Marble Microinsurance could truly shift the insurance paradigm.

Yes, it has the potential to reduce the cost of risk analysis and product distribution and delivery. And, through reverse innovation, the application of that knowledge in the developed world could be one of the most enduring legacies of this project.

I have to admit to a huge sense of satisfaction at watching this concept unfold. It was three years ago – almost to the day – that I addressed the annual IIS meeting in Rio and outlined a plan for a coordinated industry effort focused on microinsurance.

At the time, I said that this wasn’t the sort of project that could be tackled by one company. Many had tried, but none had succeeded.

I’m delighted that Joan Lamm-Tennant is now leading the development of Blue Marble Microinsurance.

Joan poured her heart and soul into taking an idea outlined in Rio in 2012 and making it a reality three years later.

This initiative is a shining, innovative example of what happens when we work together to find creative risk solutions.

So if we can find a way to offer coverage to literally billions in developing markets around the world, I know we can figure out how to redefine our work environments, our human resources policies and our recruiting programs in such a way that digital natives will be beating down the doors to join us.

Last week, I challenged the leaders of tomorrow to take charge of their destiny and find ways to attract Millennials into the insurance industry.

Today, I’m inviting you, as today’s leaders, to work together to develop a strategy for our disruption, leveraging the talent and skills of the digital generation.

As I said last week, insurance should be catnip to a Millennial looking for a purpose-driven career.

Let’s invite these digital natives in, make them feel welcome and give them the benefit of our considerable experience and expertise.

Then, let’s step aside and let them lead the way.

We have one of those rare opportunities to leave a lasting, collective legacy – one that ensures the insurance industry stays relevant and innovative and becomes the No. 1 career choice for any young person who wants to make a difference, be part of a team, keep the world working – for generations and generations to come.

Blue Marble Microinsurance is proof that, when we collaborate, exciting things happen. Let’s take a disruptive step to the future – together.

Phishers’ New Ruse: Trusted Tech Brands

Most of us don’t think twice about opening and maintaining multiple free email accounts where we live out our digital lives. And we’re getting more and more comfortable by the day at downloading and using mobile apps.

Yet those behaviors can harm us. ThirdCertainty sat down with David Duncan, chief marketing officer for threat intelligence and security company Webroot, to discuss how cyber criminals are hustling to take advantage of our love of free Web mail services and nifty mobile apps.

Infographic: Where malicious phishers lurk

3C: Phishing attacks leveraging our love of Google, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook and Dropbox are skyrocketing. How come?

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David Duncan, Webroot chief marketing officer

Duncan: There are 10 times more phishing attacks based on emulating tech companies than financial firms. You’d think it would be the other way around, but it’s not. The focus is on stealing information from your various email accounts because it’s easier to spoof people into acting on something that appears to come from Google or Apple than from Bank of America or Citibank.

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3C: Because we’re less suspicious of Google and Apple than big banks?

Duncan: Yes. Phishers prey on the fact that we see those brands as trustworthy brands.

3C: What ruses should folks watch out for?

Duncan: It’s the typical ones. You’ll get something advising you of the need to change your password or share your contacts. They’ll send you a link to click. A certain percentage of gullible users will click on the link and follow instructions to give up their credentials.

I can’t say I know of any specific new strategies other than the fact that the focus is on impersonating big domains like Google and Yahoo because people don’t think too much about something that appears to be coming from those trusted sources.

3C: Is there really a one-in-three chance the average person will fall for a phishing scam?

Duncan: Yes, there is a 30% chance of Internet users falling for a zero-day phishing attack over the course of the year. It used to be about one out of every seven phishing emails actually got through. But we’re human beings, which means we’re gullible.

3C: What about mobile apps? What’s the risk there?

Duncan: A year ago, we tracked about 8 million mobile apps, and around 75% were trustworthy and 10% were benign. So 15% were malicious or suspicious. Now we’re classifying 15 million mobile apps, and we’re finding 35% to 40% are suspicious or malicious in character.

3C: That’s a pretty significant change.

Duncan: People don’t think of installing an app on their mobile device as installing a potentially unwanted application that’s being delivered from an untrustworthy app store.

3C: So is this mostly an Android exposure?

Duncan: Probably 90% is Android, maybe 10% is iOS. Apple has a more secured kind of walled guard for verifying and authenticating the source of applications. But it also depends on what users are accustomed to. If you go over to certain geographies in the world, people may not necessarily always go to the iTunes store. There are a lot of third-party websites where even iOS apps are cheaper or they’re free.

‘Age of the Customer’ Demands Change

The music industry is in chaos. It’s a dinosaur stuck in the tar of old vinyl. Musicians are no longer knocking on record labels’ doors, asking to get their album out there. Consumers are no longer buying their music from record stores. And, with Taylor Swift withdrawing her entire catalog from Spotify, things get even crazier.

The Age of the Customer continues. And if you don’t acknowledge this — whether in music or in just about every other industry, including insurance — you could end up loved as much as a set of tangled headphones.

You Really Got a Hold on Me
In a time not so long ago, musicians had no choice but to go through record labels to even think about reaching their audience. The industry had a three-step process:

  1. Song creation
  2. Marketing
  3. Distribution

This meant artists created their album with the record label’s supervision; the record label then marketed it via in-house or through a third party; the radio stations then played it; and then, finally, customers could buy it at their local record stores. Thus was created a multi-layered model that greatly benefited the record labels.

So what happened to this model?

They Say You Want a Revolution
The Internet happened. By the late ‘90s, when the Internet started to catch fire, people began realizing its potential power, such as the ability to digitalize entire music catalogs. This ultimately led to the birth of music piracy, which drastically cut into record labels’ pockets, creating a rippling effect felt throughout music – within the industry and among music lovers.

But when the iPod was introduced in 2001 it shattered the traditional model of the music industry. Musicians could now bypass all the old steps and start putting out their own music through digital sites like iTunes, opposing music piracy and giving royalties back to artists. Then, fans starting getting into the act.

As record labels worked to stay relevant, they had to offer artists new partnerships, such as 360° deals. A 360° deal assured artists a share from their music, concerts, merchandising, publishing and licensing income – ultimately creating a five-step model:

  1. Recorded music
  2. Merchandising
  3. Fan sites and ticketing
  4. Broadcast and digital rights management
  5. Sponsorship and management

Any Way You Want It
Enter the Age of the Customer. To combat piracy, stream-based cloud services began to emerge (see news on Spotify and Beats Music). Consumers now have the option to listen to any of their favorite songs, on multiple platforms, any time they want – for free even, if you’re willing to put up with commercials.

So now consumers can choose to pay to download a song, buy CDs or records, stream their favorite radio stations or stream their favorite music without breaking the law. This, once again, is shattering the music industry’s business model.

And, boy, the times they are a-changin’. Consumers now connect globally to their favorite bands through the Internet and bypass exclusive record label channels. The majority of consumers don’t buy albums, they download songs.

There’s been a greater attendance at concerts (Live Nation’s ticket sales are up 17%) . Fans seem to be more loyal. Consumers have it made right now, and things seem to be getting even better.

Spotify, the online streaming service, started contacting record labels for a possible negotiation. The labels offered a share in their company for a band’s catalog. The big boys started jumping on board, giving listeners gold record bands, such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd – for free.

And the record labels are happy, because it’s the first time someone has offered them equity for their band’s music. Which means that, if Spotify goes public, well, it’s more money for them. Everybody wins.

However, not everyone is happy with the online streaming service, especially Taylor Swift. After “trying” her music out on Spotify, she decided it wasn’t the best medium for her music, so she pulled her catalog from the streaming service. She also believed her music wasn’t valued as much, because Spotify has no regulations on who gets what – and lack of earned royalties.

It’s an interesting situation right now. With artists pulling music from Spotify (even Jason Aldean recently joined the Swift bandwagon), the music industry must ask itself – is online music streaming the future of music mediums?

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes
In today’s market, technology has placed the ball back in the consumer’s court. The music industry is reeling and desperately trying to get back in the game, but the game keeps changing. Technology is transforming everything, we all know, but how is your company preparing for the inevitable? Are you creating a customer-centric culture that embraces the new? Or are you waiting to see how your competitors fare?