on a bucking horse at the rodeo
Everyone can't be Amazon, but we can take some cues from the ecommerce giant on how to mash up technology to your benefit PHOTO: Emil Kepko

Succeeding at digital business today — from commerce to government to high tech — requires harnessing an ecosystem of technology and capabilities. And that ecosystem is growing every day. 

Think cloud-based services, martech and adtech software, customer journey orchestration, machine learning, conversational UIs, APIs and more. It’s all at your fingertips. 

The trouble is, you can’t just go buy what you need from a single vendor in one fell swoop. No such vendor exists. You need to plan, pick and choose, determining exactly what will add value to your offering. The winners in 2020 will be the organizations that can effectively leverage the right combinations of technology — strategically “mashing them up” to improve customer experience and, if they do things right, massively disrupt markets.

This isn’t just finding the “right tool” for a job. It’s finding the right combination of capabilities and technology, and more than just integrating them, orchestrating them to address the evolving priorities of your customers and your organization. 

Amazon, King of the Mash-up Ecosystem

There’s a reason experts keep coming back to Amazon.com as a standard-setter. Sure, the company is a commerce platform, but Amazon’s growing commerce footprint is a testament to its willingness to embrace and expand. Over the years, Amazon has harnessed an ecosystem of offerings and capabilities and, in turn, put those capabilities in the hands of you and me — the everyday consumer.

It starts with Amazon’s core retail ecosystem. From Amazon Music to AmazonFresh to Zappos, the company’s footprint continues to grow at a rapid pace. But it’s just the beginning. Next comes the technology. 

Amazon’s ability to adopt new technology and innovations into its ecosystem, and mold this to support its business vision, is what makes the giant truly unique. For instance, its voice recognition tech is integrated into in-home devices such as Amazon Echo, Dot and, now, Amazon Wand for voice-enabled grocery shopping. The magic is in the mash-up. An Amazon Echo that just does voice web searches? That was done years ago by Echo’s now-elderly aunt, Siri.

Combine Amazon’s retail ecosystem with its tech ecosystem, and consumers can chat with a device to access nearly everything on the web — including, of course, Amazon’s own products. Place an order via Alexa, and Amazon’s warehouse robots (another piece of their tech ecosystem) roll into action, swiftly moving back-and-forth to grab items from shelves and drop them off for packaging and shipping. 

Amazon has built a seamless delivery network from warehouse shelf to your living room. Usually within a day or two, a box is on your doorstep.

In essence, it’s not just an index of products that makes Amazon so powerful. It’s the incredible way the company has harnessed technology and unified it, giving each puzzle piece within the ecosystem more value than ever before. 

On its own, Echo is not game-changing. But when combined with Amazon’s network of brands, distinct supply chain and delivery strategy, and overall customer experience, Echo becomes a vehicle for a new standard of efficiency and convenience.

What If You’re Not Amazon?

Today, it has never been easier to build a digitally-powered business, but only if you move boldly. There are limitless technologies available, and innovative new products and services are hitting the market faster and faster. Most businesses are likely in a position to “do digital” better than they’ve ever done it before. You don’t have to build all that technology, or invent new technology. You just have to harness what’s readily available.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  1. Map Out Your Current Ecosystem. Before you make any decisions about digital, take the time to review the ecosystem around your business or product offering. What tools, tech and capabilities are you using, and what technology have you invested in? Get a lay of the land, and determine whether or not you’re doing enough to harness — or mash up — key solutions and capabilities outside of your current network. Are there gaps that could be filled by combining capabilities and technology?
  2. Buy, Don’t Build. Once you have a strong understanding of your current digital footprint, pinpoint the areas that not only need improvement, but that can likely be addressed with outside technology partners. It’s easy to think that the only way to enhance the current state of your digital is to build, build, build. But countless solutions can be purchased. Or open source solutions can be harnessed and integrated into your ecosystem allowing you to grow, innovate and scale at a rapid and effective pace. Again, think with a mash-up mindset.
  3. Have a Strategic Eye. Of course, not every organization will benefit from every product available. Or even every product category (see Scott Brinker’s MarTech mega-chart for how foolish an idea this could be). Digital decision makers must learn to assess their ecosystem — both internally and externally — with a strategic eye. In turn, they need to prioritize and invest in solutions that push their business forward and streamline traditional practices. Be aggressive, but smart, about the way you successfully mash up technologies.
  4. Prioritize Your Customers. It can’t be said enough — the decision to pay attention to your customers’ needs, or not, is what will make or break you in today’s crowded digital environment. Think about customer journeys — your products, brand, digital experiences — and decide what you need to do to effectively meet their wants and needs. Focus on overcoming the hurdles that are preventing conversion, purchase or repeat purchases and loyalty. The perfect ecosystem should be measured on the basis not of how cutting-edge your technology is, but how you’re solving specific customer pain points — from ease-of-use to personalization to security — to better satisfy individuals’ wants and needs.