About 4 million years ago in Australia a fierce predator emerged. The Thylacine or “Tasmanian Tiger” was the apex predator in the food chain on the continent preying on kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and other game native to the continent. Meanwhile, a similar predator known as the Gray Wolf inhabited the Northern hemisphere but had a diet of moose, deer, rabbits. Apart from the meat they ate, they were otherwise very similar. They looked similar, had similar behaviors, and served similar functions in their respective ecological systems. The difference? The Thylacine was a marsupial while the Gray Wolf was from a completely different genetic lineage. They evolved from completely different genetic roots to occupy a similar ecological niche; the four legged apex predator. Today there is an abundance of wolves…but the last of the Thylacine disappeared in the 1936.
The concept of or “convergent evolution” or “equafinality” can and does occur in any open system be it biological, technological, or epistemological. Organisms, tools, and ideas can start from very different origins but end up at the same place.
Technological convergent evolution is precisely what is occurring now in the world of Customer Experience. The world of CX is a multi-cornered high stakes Battle Royale with competitors from completely different heritages all heading toward a collision course at the same destination. It’s anyones guess who will get there first and who will rule the roost, but let me introduce you to the contenders. Ladies and gentlemen please place your bets…
Corner 1: Battleships
In the first corner we have the traditional “battleship” research firms. Venerable firms such as TNS, Ipsos, GfK and the like who inadvertently got into the CX world because “insight” was required. While titans in their own right with tons of experience and legitimacy in providing business intelligence to their clients, they are struggling keeping up with the newest pugilists in the space…the EFM disrupter.
Corner 2: EFMs
While the term “EFM” or Enterprise Feedback Management is a bit passé nowadays, these competitors are thriving with their bare knuckle SaaS technology combat technique. Companies such as Medallia, Qualtrics, and others come from a pure technology hertitage. They have “blue-oceaned” the space to a degree, but after the mad passion of clients’ technological one night stand fades, many are left yearning for something more than just technology. What’s missing, in some cases, is meaning, insight, and action. Thus we see a nearly promiscuous rush of partnerships with the “battleships” research companies and technology companies as they try to combine the benefits of slick technology, scale, and substance. But legacy research companies are not the only pals of the EFMs…
Corner 3: Consulting
Big consulting firms such as Deloitte, KPMG, PWC, BCG, Bain, and other illustrious firms have started to attack CX from an organizational change and digital disruption angle. They make big bucks helping organizations chart the future and solutions. However, they are left a bit impotent in terms of implementation and actually “doing” something. Big buck consultants’ go-to-guys for execution tend to be EFMs and the increasing the world of BIG DATA marketing automation and CRM.
Corner 4: CRM and Marketing Automation
Weighing in at 1,200 lbs, this GIANT set of players ready to rock-n-roll in the CX space is the CRM and Marketing Automation companies. These are the aggressive Hulk-Superfly-Andre titans with deep pockets. Companies like Eloqua, Pardot, and Marketo occupy the “conquest” space of marketing automation while Salesforce.com, Oracle, and Microsoft have poured millions, if not billions into the CRM space. Why have they not obliterated the fledgling EFM disrupters? I don’t know, but my guess is they have just not got around to it yet.
Corner 5: BI, Data Visualization, and Predictive Analytics
And not to be ignored from the CX battle arena are the business analytics, data visualization, and predictive analytics platforms out there who also have an interest in both the CRM and CX space. Tiny companies like SAP, SAS, and IBM are all engaged in this space where big data and non-relational data bases are the constant talk of the town. Unicorns such as Domo and Tableau have lavish user conferences and high rates of adoption. They too will play important role in either providing the insights through brute analytic force or through the eloquent and simple display of customer insights.
Thylacines vs. Wolves
So in 2017 we are ring side, in some cases in the ring, in this WWE style cage match in which the round one bell is still ringing in our ears. It will be a long fight with knock outs not likely early on. There will be winners and there will be losers. Most often, however, I think there will be partnerships and there will be acquisitions. From whatever heritage they came, be it reptile, marsupial, or mammal, the market will converge. CRM, CX, Marketing Automation, Predictive Analytics and even consulting will be one tall Lincoln hat solution stack that clients can pick and choose from as it suits their needs. The line between marketing and retention will fade and then disappear. It is inevitable. It is also inevitable that there will be Wolves and there will be Thylacines. Don’t be a Thylacine.