What brands do you use most (think mobile apps)? Come up with one or two in your head.
Chances are, at least until now, you haven’t put an excessive amount of thought into why you use the apps/platforms you do or what they do differently than every other company — you just know you use certain social platforms or apps like crazy. They have “it,” whatever “it” is.
If you thought of Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, or Facebook, then, like almost everyone else in the world, you’re a consumer of one or more of today’s most valuable companies.
Though these “Fearsome Five,” as they’ve been dubbed, have been the world’s most dominant brands for the last five to ten years, they weren’t even in the top 20 just two short decades ago. What’s changed? And what do these brands all have in common that make them so different — so valuable?
It has to do with their market share, sure. Each has revolutionary technology and owns a large portion of their respective market. But how and why? The answer has to do with data, channels, and the experience each offers.
Why are Google and Apple noticeably more valuable than the rest? Time and data. Apple and Google are more than brands that sell — they are ingrained in our lives, the foundation for some of our most basic daily tasks. iPhones are as much a part of us as our own hearts, and the constant use of these devices and associated apps gives tremendous value to the brand. Google’s array of services touch every aspect of our lives including computing, collaboration, productivity, information discovery, finance, shopping, maps, and more. Think about it this way: how would your life change without the products, services, and utility of either of these brands?
Even though these 5 companies have dominated for many years now, the consumer marketplace is changing, and the world is rewarding digital-first companies in new ways.
The World Has Changed
It used to be that companies dictated how we, as consumers, interacted with them. They’d set store hours, and you had to drive to wherever that store happened to be. Prices would be set as marked, and availability was typically limited to what was in stock.
But all that has been flipped on its head now.
Today’s retail landscape has taken a 180-degree turn. Now, it’s consumers who decide where, when, and how they interact with retailers. The online marketplace makes it easy to browse, build carts, and buy products 24 hours a day. Consumers have access to almost any type, style, size, or variation of any product they could possibly imagine.
And as a result, digital-first, customer-centric brands are being handsomely rewarded.
Because of increased access and heightened online brand experiences, customers have now come to expect and demand personalization. Brands have no choice but to prove they know each customer, that they value them, and can meet them where they are.
There are two things to know about how the world is changing based on what leading digital companies are doing:
- Expectations are up. The Googles and Facebooks of the world are leading a new wave of consumer expectations that every other brand now must live up to. The bar is set higher than ever before because of the way these five brands treat their customers.
- Consumers are in control. Whether 12 a.m. or noon, whether on your smartphone, laptop, or tablet, consumers are now in the driver seat and determine exactly how they choose to interact. Brands are just along for the ride.
What Do These Brands Have in Common?
Aside from name recognition, stellar brand reputation, and increased value, what do 2018’s five top-performing brands have in common? These tech giants have done what we’re all trying to do — mended the barriers, silos, bridge (whatever you want to call it) — between people, processes, and technology.
Valuable brands bridge the technology-human chasm
Each of these brands is a customer-first, digital-first technology company. Each is a digital master, bridging the online consumer experience with ease, simplicity, and predictive elements — and, in the process, fundamentally altering the perception of what a great experience feels like.
These digital companies all do these 3 things in unique ways:
- Use customer-driven channels – You can engage, interact, and buy on any of these platforms via any device, anytime, across the globe.
- Manage data at scale – They take this customer-driven channel approach and marry it with data management. In short, they manage data at scale. Facebook, Google and Apple hold the majority of customer data on Earth — and masterfully weave it together to apply this “holistic” picture of who each individual is to their experience.
- Offer personalized interactions – They manage data at scale to provide personalized, unique experiences on an individual level.
They master the collection of data, cover the breadth of channel access, and scale personalization. Here’s a few examples of how.
Editor’s note: My goal is to present these ideas in a new way that you may have not considered before. While all these innovative companies do many of the same kinds of things (and all use data to inform outputs across any channel, anytime), the following points, I think, help each stand above others in their niche.
Part of the beauty of masterful online marketplaces like Amazon is that the store literally never closes. You can shop anytime and on any device. Shoppers stop and resume as they please, and are always guaranteed a personalized experience. Along with other brands on our list, Amazon personalizes content — product recommendations, in this case — based on purchased or owned items.
The value of this kind of personalization? An enhanced, easier, more comprehensive shopping experience that goes beyond utility to delight.
Part of Google’s allure is its ease of use. What could once be called the world’s most popular search engine has evolved over the past ten years into one of the world’s most innovative technology companies — enabling incredibly personalized experiences, detailed discovery, and an array of other capabilities across its family of apps.
We might take it for granted now, but search results, for instance, take your personal data (like geolocation information) into account when displaying results. Predictive search helps save time when users begin to type a query, and results are personalized.
The experience Google provides feels personalized to a tee. It feels like search results are curated just for me.
Facebook is the social network of the century, and arguably the most innovative, connected platform in the world. Even amidst recent news linking Facebook to a questionable partnership with an application designed to collect data on users, it’s still the most globally-accessible and widely-used network in the world. In fact, 64% of Gen Z and 54% of Gen X’ers self report that they check Facebook multiple times per day. It’s raw size and mass of users have yielded HUGE data sets about those people (for better or worse).
Your “feed” displays content based on what is most relevant to you as indicated by past interactions and defined preferences. Facebook makes it all about you. Even sponsored ads and pages relate to expressed interests or previous pages visited.
With Facebook — as all of these brands — access is unlimited, and there’s no barrier to entry. Anyone can access the platform, anytime, on any device, from anywhere with internet access. The experience is always the same, regardless of device, and, like Google, the experience is easy and personalized.
The world has changed. For the first time, the digital experience is overtaking the in-store experience in terms of popularity, importance, scale, and profitability. 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Xers prefer to shop online rather than in-store. How are you engaging your up-and-coming Millennial, digitally-connected customers?
Look to these five brands to ask how you can use data and increase access to your store or platform while scaling personalization to enhance that end experience.
Each is leading the way as they connect the experience across platforms, devices, and location for each customer based on information that customer is telling them. You can too… it just takes a commitment to enter the digital age and modernize your marketing.
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