Gordon Plant, Vice President of Products at BaseKit, on the benefits of the “open ecosystem” for small businesses
Starting and growing a successful online business is not without its challenges. And while microbusiness owners are notoriously resourceful, it’s hard to know where to start to succeed online. With so many apps available to micro business owners, it can be overwhelming. At BaseKit, our mission is to enable micro businesses to thrive online. Our vision is to build a future where micro business customers can see a clear path from starting point to completing their mission, no matter how many different applications they need to use in the process. of road. Increasingly, we believe that collaborating on an open ecosystem is the surest way to help bring that future closer to reality.
What is an open ecosystem and why is it important?
Micro businesses, much like their much larger counterparts, rely heavily on technology to operate. BaseKit research shows that people typically use 12-18 different apps on a phone and computer to run different parts of their business. That’s a lot of different data to enter into different systems and a dozen or more applications to learn.
So how does this relate to an open ecosystem? Technology companies that are part of an open ecosystem actively build and program their products with the ability to seamlessly integrate with any other vendor. The data is shared between the companies that make it up and allows all players to better meet customer needs. Of course, any provider that participates in the open ecosystem must comply with privacy and data protection legislation. Suppliers are responsible for handling data responsibly and protecting it adequately.
Cooperation within an open ecosystem means less friction for the small business end user, as they only need to input one set of data. When more vendors collaborate in the open ecosystem, the microbusiness owner has more choice. And when companies work together to create better products for the customer, the customer wins.
Simplify the user journey
Micro business owners have various challenges which can be solved by various software, from accounting software to CRM system. No company can build everything a micro-enterprise needs. And solopreneurs, in particular, don’t always know what they’ll need until they need it – urgently. People start with what they already have and add new apps as they discover new problems that they need to solve.
This user journey therefore evolves as the company develops. It is driven by the owner of the micro business, as it is up to him to go out and find what he needs in the hope that it will solve the problem he is facing. As it stands, each independent software vendor is striving to make their own application easy to use. However, they rarely think about the broader customer journey and the many different apps needed to complete a single task.
In an open ecosystem, applications developed by different vendors have been designed to work together. The user journey can work across different products with minimal friction, thanks to vendor collaboration in an open ecosystem.
The result is a much simpler and more valuable experience for the end user. The open ecosystem encourages providers to think more broadly. Not necessarily to try to build products beyond their niche, but to consider the entire user journey, not just the part that relates to their product.
The alternative: a closed ecosystem
If an open ecosystem is a strong contender for the future, then what is the current alternative? Closed ecosystems.
A closed ecosystem keeps customers locked into a set of apps and, sometimes, devices. While this simplifies some tasks, it significantly reduces the customer’s freedom to decide which type of applications best suits their unique needs.
In terms of products directly related to micro-businesses, providers such as Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace operate as closed ecosystems. These closed ecosystems can meet customer needs up to a certain point, although a closed ecosystem is generally good for the software vendor, while minimizing the freedom of choice of the micro-business owner.
BaseKit’s share in the open ecosystem
At BaseKit, we have discussed with other vendors how to make it easier for their customers to use our products. Eventually, this could lead to the development of an open ecosystem. We believe it will be beneficial for customers and vendors to have different software applications work together seamlessly.
BaseKit’s participation in an open ecosystem would allow our partners to access a much larger group of applications that work together. Customers would benefit from the breadth of choice and the simplicity of a single point of contact to access the abundance of resources – their original service provider. Therefore, collaboration, even with products that we may view as competitors, is in our long-term interest if it helps our partners and their micro-business customers succeed with our products.
The key to successfully adopting the open ecosystem
Embracing the idea of the open ecosystem is one thing, but there’s one key element that makes it all workable in practice: platform neutrality. We must offer the same level of support for each platform that our customers might reasonably want to use. Offering support for select platforms doesn’t work because it narrows the choice for micro businesses and forces them to settle for what’s available.
By being “platform-neutral” and offering broad support, micro-enterprises benefit from greater choice. It also allows our partners to create attractive offers – they have the flexibility to create offers that appeal to their customer base.
The future of the open ecosystem
At CloudFest, the annual cloud industry conference held in Germany last month, we were thrilled to hear other vendors share our insights on the importance of creating an open ecosystem. In the long run, this could lead to standardized application programming interfaces (APIs) for information exchange. The practical benefit for the customer is that they only have to enter information once instead of entering it multiple times for each new application they use in their business. Once the apps “know” each other, they can help the customer navigate between multiple apps to get a task done quickly.
The future of the open ecosystem is to create openness in practice, not just in theory. It’s encouraging to know that helping micro business customers move from confusion and overload to fast and smooth task execution is a priority for others in the industry as well. Collaboration gives us the opportunity to empower more micro-businesses, to help everyone thrive online. We are excited to explore the way forward and eager to share our findings.