Great post, Nalatie. Can’t agree more with what Meili said (well 2 soon-to-be-Amazonians should always think good about Amazon!) that it’s not too far away when Amazon will take over. But I will add a third player to it: how about IKEA?
We have seen in multiple IKEA cases at HBS how their value proposition has always been to let a customer buy everything they need in one visit. But they lose on a lot of customers who are not able to travel to their far-off locations. Now imagine with the help of VR, all of them can access and order IKEA inventory. Starting with kitchen experience, they have also started to test out VR stores:
How do you think the VR furniture industry will pan out?
Yao – loved the post. I am a big believer in how VR can disrupt retail. I wonder if Amazon is gearing up for it. They haven’t disclosed anything but recently media picked up on a VR related job posting on Amazon Careers page:
No one knows if it is for retail or video or something else. But something is definitely coming. (Shameless plug: refer to my blogpost related to this: https://d3.harvard.edu/platform-digit/submission/amazon-behind-on-the-vr-chasm/)
Within retail, do you think there are specific verticals which can benefit more from VR than others? For example, scanning through aisles and aisles of items might be a very annoying and customer-unfriendly process. A customer might go to Amazon.com instead. But furniture can really benefit from VR. What do you think?
Adam – Great blog about a great idea for a great cause. Thank you!
The content looks really useful and effective. I am curious how the company is developing the content though. It is such a sensitive topic that the content will have to curated as per the guidelines.
You raise an important point about the go-to-market strategy. I think there are multiple stakeholders in the ecosystem – users (prisoners), customers (prison administration) and collaborators/influencers (therapists and psychologists whose budget will actually get impacted). While the first two are important, the third one is very important to convince because they must be offering rehab packages in prison currently. Unless they buy into the idea of VR, the prison admin will not embrace the idea. This is similar to pharma industry where the primary case physician, while not being the user or customer, becomes an important part of the decision-making process.
I would wait to see how Virtual Rehab does.
Lulu – Well said. Most recommendation engines are not that personalized. Speaking about Grubhub, I won’t say they are quite there yet, but their recommendations for me are definitely better than other services I have tried. A part of that is to do with the number of orders I have made. The more orders you make, the more Grubhub knows about you and the better recommendations it gives you. One interesting thing to note is that the recommendation results shown on the home page are not paid results, as much as I understand. When you search for restaurants on the search page, the ranking does take into account the revenue percentage shared by the restaurant. This transparent results featuring system on homepage makes recommendations really transparent.
Further, as I mentioned in the possible opportunities, once Grubhub starts knowing your taste in detail (eg. you like ‘spicy’ Chana masala, etc.), that’s when the real magic will kick in. Because then the recommendations can really be on the dish level based on what people are saying about that dish. Current ratings are based on high-level quality and correctness of food, and delivery timeliness. Further, Grubhub will also be able to suggest side dishes based on popular combinations.
In a nutshell, agree it is not quite there yet but it will have to reach there soon to maintain its competitive advantage in the crowding industry.
Rahul – Interesting read. Having worked at Grubhub, any food-related start-up excites me! 🙂
Can you elaborate a bit more on what all data are they capturing from customers? and what all data are they using to curate the product selection? Do they use it to also build a personalized recommendation engine for a user? You mentioned about 15000 new customer ratings every day. Curious what all information they capture in the ratings. Given their box has 4-8 different types of snacks, even 1 bad snack can ruin user’s experience while other 7 might be really good. So, to my mind, it becomes important to collect snack-level data.
And I would love to try Graze, send me a promo code it you have one. 🙂
James – Interesting concept. Thanks for sharing the information. Few thoughts: let me know your response to them:
1. You mentioned Mint is already helping users manage personal finances. I understand Trim is providing additional features like cancelling subscriptions, negotiating bills etc. But as a user, what is expected out of me? Am I expected to multi-home? A typical user would already have a checking account and a few credit card accounts to manage. On top of that, I am using Mint and probably a few other finance / expense management tools. In this scenario, how is Trim trying to acquire users?
2. What is the competitive advantage Trim has? Mint, with much more data, can any day start doing what they do.
Agree @HBSstudent11. This goes back to their philosophy of not letting ads feature on the platform. Who knows they might open up that stream of revenues.
Anish – Good write-up about how Google Maps has leveraged various sources of data to achieve high level of accuracy. I often wonder what’s going to be the next big thing for google maps? Other than Waze acquisition (enabling real-time crowdsourced traffic data), targeting emerging markets (with light/low-bandwidth product) and integrating third party apps like Uber/Lyft, etc, how do you think Google Maps can create further value for its user / customers?
@Techie – I like your perspective. Agree that Wikipedia’s scale is much bigger to worry about players like Quora but disruption always start that way. Quora is providing reputational advantage (in the online social space) to its contributors which Wikipedia is not providing. You don’t know who has contributed to the Wikipedia content unless you go to the history page to see the names. But Quora tells you who has contributed to it. Further, Quora takes votes from the readers who can up/down vote the responses. This helps the readers get to read the best / most relevant answers, which others are also reading. So more editors –> better content –> more readers –> (more advertisers and) more editors. Clearly a network effect game!
Agree that Quora’s current content is more in Q&A form and it lacks the depth and referencing information Wikipedia provides, but who knows Quora might decide to go there one day. Who in our generation would have thought we would switch so easily from Encyclopædia Britannica to Wikipedia? But it happened! 🙂
Anish – I second your thoughts. In fact it goes back to what we were discussing the other day. How do they ensure enough funding as the number of people using internet rises and Wikipedia scales up?
I don’t think Wikipedia will start running ads – it is against their principles. Refer to the first of the five Wikipedia pillars on the following link:
It says “Wikipedia is not a soapbox, an advertising platform, a vanity press, an experiment in anarchy or democracy, an indiscriminate collection of information, or a web directory.” And I don’t think running ads on Wikipedia will help users. Google is already displaying ads, there’s no reason Wikipedia would want to compete with them in that space.
Next, they are managed by Wikimedia Foundation which is a non-profit organization aimed at distributing high-quality content for free. As long as Wikipedia stays under Wikimedia Foundation, I don’t think they will start charging readers or start displaying ads.
One potential source of revenue I can think of is premium model for corporations. That would mean figuring out additional value proposition on top of what Wikipedia already offers and charging the corporations for that (on subscription basis or pay per use basis). I don’t know if Wikipedia is already thinking in that direction.
What other sources of revenue can you think of?
Christy – I agree that it indeed is really difficult for Wikipedia to balance crowdsourcing content from users and ensuring consistency. I think Wikipedia already has a good oversight structure in place. What will make it more efficient, to my mind, is automated checks using artificial intelligence and machine learning. In fact, Wikipedia today uses bots to correct basic spelling / grammar errors, etc. They can double down on the technology to notify the oversight team if inconsistent things are posted on a page, or if a page is illegitimately edited. Having said that, they can’t be 100% accurate and such instances will occur.
Natalie, great post! This initiatives seems like Threadless model – the TOM case we did in RC year.
Also agree with Seanna that this could be used as a promotional strategy to acquire more Prime customers.
Curious to know your thoughts on whether this will be a successful initiative (getting votes on the pilots)? How do you think it will impact the overall industry and Netflix’s strategy in particular as Amazon Studios scale up?
Tomo, thanks for sharing this case study about the failure of crowd-sourced information platform. I would love to know how you think this could have been prevented? In such cases, I always refer back to Wikipedia (as Meili and Megan mentioned too). While it is not paying their editors any money to contribute to the content, it has put in place a hierarchical editorial team to enhance consistency and sanctity of information. That being sad, you still can’t always trust all the information on Wikipedia. Wikipedia does, however, provide references to the information in the articles. (shameless plug: see my blog on Wikipedia: https://d3.harvard.edu/platform-digit/submission/wikipedia-the-free-encyclopedia/). Similarly, Quora is also free crowdsourced content where contributors are not getting any monetary benefits.
In light of these, how do you think DeNA type instances can be avoided by similar platforms?
Nice post, James. I too never noticed flyscore on Tripadvisor. As I read your post, one question comes to my mind: How can Tripadvisor better leverage this data in routine flight booking? Can it have the user pre-submit the preferences based on what matters most to her – is it legroom or is it timely departure and arrival, or response in emergencies/ cancellations? Then Tripadvisor can rank the flight options based on the score of the options on the features that matter the most to the user. What say?
Further, to the point of collecting the data, I am not sure whose customer I am if I book flight through Tripadvisor. Tripadvisor acts as an affiliate and sends me to the airline website where I complete the transaction (post which Tripadvisor hopefully gets the commission). But I have already left TripAdvisor and am solely a customer of the airline now. How is Tripadvisor tracking which flight I booked using which email id (I can easily use a different id while booking the flight than the one I use on my Tripadvisor account) so it can send me email later to give feedback? Next, airlines already ask to submit detailed feedback (which is often ignored by people). Why would a user submit another set of feedback on Tripadvisor?
Onaizah – thanks for bringing up this intriguing question. Agree that WeChat’s success is partly due to firewalled Internet and cultural differences in China. (refer https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/21/facebook-on-course-to-be-the-wechat-of-the-west-says-gartner/).
But the wave has already begun in the West. For example, Facebook Messenger has been spun off (from facebook app) as an independent app. With the introduction of Facebook Chatbots, facebook is trying to make messenger a platform not just for messaging, but also to interact with businesses (eg. Expedia, Burger King, 1-800 flowers, WSJ, etc.) – all AI controlled. Further, you can also make peer-to-peer money transfer on messenger (much like Venmo). Similarly, Amazon Alexa, as we discussed in the class, is trying to be similarly integrated platform. iMessages has started it’s own mini-app store (with Kayak, Dropbox, Foodler, yelp, Opentable, Airbnb, Tinder and Coffee meets bagel, etc).
Many of these mini-apps are just engagement apps but few have moved to transaction stage too, which is what WeChat has done. In a nutshell, the move has definitely started but I don’t think it’s going to be a winner-take-all market. These platforms are serving (and will serve) different use cases – text vs voice, home/personal vs office, etc. and hence will remain in harmony with each other. Rest only time will tell how this space pans out.
Whoa! This is a classic case of adverse network effects. Wondering what a company like Etsy can do to prevent such behavior?
Meili – Great post. Had heard of the sad state of UberRush performance, didn’t know it’s so bad.
You mentioned about last-mile delivery side of Amazon Flex. Wondering if they also are doing / plan to do first-mile pick-up (for Amazon returns) as well? Should help boost the cost savings further!
Great observation, Lulu. As far as Grubhub goes, part of their deliveries are done by the restaurant themselves. For the restaurants that do not have their own drivers, Grubhub has a team of drivers. While I can see multi-homing among the latter set of drivers, I am not too worried for Grubhub because they can promise enough deliveries to their drivers, atleast in tier 1/2 cities. Yes, expanding to tier 3 cities will definitely pose this problem.
What I see as another opportunity is the optimization of delivery routes (as in case of Uber pool) which Grubhub hasn’t cracked yet.
Anish – Love the post! You mention that Yelp is now integrating with businesses in other verticals (other than food) which is contributing to a sizeable portion of Yelp’s revenue. How do you think Yelp will compete with Google Nearby feature (which you mention briefly as well)? Similarly, Facebook SMB strategy (https://www.clickz.com/How+Facebook+is+focusing+on+SMBs+in+2016) also poses a threat to Yelp.
Deeper integration with business makes total sense but are businesses really not going to multi-home? Having worked in Grubhub, this is one of the challenges we saw with the emergence of multiple food ordering/delivery platforms. At the end of the day, it’s a strong network effects game and Google / Facebook has billions of users and can disrupt Yelp any day. What do you think?
Further, we discussed AI platforms like Alexa, Google Home, Jibo in LTV class this week. How do you think that’s going to shape Yelp’s initiatives going forward?
Hi Dan – Great post highlighting the evolution of industry so far. Curious to know if you have any thoughts on how the emergence of so many competitors has impacted Grubhub. Also, what do you think will be the future of this industry? Will we see consolidation? Is it a winner-take-all market? Will Grubhub keep losing its edge with restaurants as many more platforms come up?
Very good question.
And the simple answer is that BlaBlaCar carpooling does NOT impact insurance at all.
The driver’s existing car insurance covers carpooling. Here’s what BlaBlaCar website says: “When you travel with BlaBlaCar as a driver, passengers contribute towards your running costs. No profits are made which is why BlaBlaCar drivers’ insurance policies are not affected.”
No additional insurance is needed for the passenger other than the mandatory insurance (Third Party Liability) of the driver. In case of any accident, all passengers will be covered by the driver’s mandatory TPL.
Rahul – I agree. Things are much less safer in emerging countries like India and China. As I was reading through BlaBlaCar India’s webpage (https://www.blablacar.in/trust-safety-insurance), they indeed are trying to build the community on the basis of trust. However, things are not that simple. There always will be a risk of safety, and it’s true from all people in the car – driver, passenger, co-passenger. As you would know, Uber also has had a few unfortunate incidents, mainly with women, in India. I don’t think BlaBlaCar has put in enough mechanisms in place to tackle this. In fact as I was writing this response, just found a new of a complaint by a BlaBlaCar passenger against the co-passenger.
They will definitely need to work around this if they want to remain competitive and scale up fast in emerging markets.
Meili – Great post on Google maps.
I wonder what’s next for them? They have built such a great product and are now integrating third party apps – Uber, Opentable, etc. within Google Maps. But what’s the next game changer plan for them? Rather, how can Google Maps be disrupted?
Sorry, I am not able to upload the screenshot of Amazon Alexa app showing the ratings but I will list them here:
Uber: 2.0 out of 5.0
Lyft: 3.0 out of 5.0
Domino’s Pizza: 2.5 out of 5.0
Pizza Hut: 2.5 out of 5.0
Opentable: 3.0 out of 5.0
Megan – Great post! And Bipul – you raise a very interesting question.
I was just infact reading Seanna’s post on how Siri has lost the game: https://d3.harvard.edu/platform-digit/submission/hey-siri-can-you-help-yourself/#comment-1881
And I raised the question whether there’s going to be a winner in this market or all – Google, Alexa, Siri, Cortana – will live in harmony (and fair competition) with each other. My sense is the latter. They all cater to different form factors (Android vs iPhones, home-bound vs mobile, etc.) and slightly different use cases.
Bipul – Answering your question around Google vs Alexa, Google Home (powered by Google Assistant) ofcourse has the advantage of google search engine and many other google products – Youtube (you can stream video on your screen through Google Home), Nest Devices, Google Maps, etc. I feel Amazon has built this great technology but has failed in several aspects (rather yet to catch up). While Alexa has over 7,000 skills, most of them are not useful for the masses. Even among the ones most useful to the masses – Uber, Lyft, Domino’s Pizza, the user ratings are terrible. See the figure below from Amazon Alexa app.
Further, the sales of Alexa products had been dismal until last year. I think they really gained some numbers in 2016 with constant improvement in the product and technology.
I love Alexa and am a big believer in this technology. But I also believe Amazon has a long way to go before it can make Alexa a part of the lives of the masses.
Here’s a TechCrunch article about Viv:
Seanna – Thanks for the insightful post on how Siri has lost the game against Alexa and Google Assistant so far. It’s interesting to see how Apple’s close mindedness clipped away its capabilities. I have always been curious to understand how this space of ‘Conversational Commerce’ will evolve. Is it going to be a winner-takes-all market? Or will all – Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, etc. – claim their fair share of the pie, because they indeed exist on different form factors? Would love to know your thoughts on the same.
Also, you might have seen already – the creators of Siri (who then sold Siri to Apple) create another personal assistant ‘Viv’ (which they claim is 20x better than Siri) and sold it to Samsung recently. This adds another player to the race as Samsung thinks about speeding up its AI game.
Andrew – Thanks for your comment and for raising this interesting question.
I have been myself surprised as to why BlaBlaCar hasn’t expanded yet in the United States. I think it’s to do with long distance inter-city rides in US unlike in Europe. The average inter-city ride in Europe is ~200-250 miles. Also, the gas in US is much cheaper in US so the cost of the trip is already lower for the rider.
In terms of Uber’s response, I will be curious to see if they enter this market. My sense is they won’t. I see Uber now becoming more of a logistics company (transporting passengers and delivering goods) while BlaBlaCar’s Customer Value Proposition to drivers is to lower the cost of travel, and not use that as a means of living. Also, the customer target segment is very different – these drivers are not professional drivers but indeed the other set of customers looking to offer rides to others and save a few dollars (and not earn profit). This is why Uber and BlaBlaCar haven’t really competed yet. BlaBlaCar is actually an Amtrak/Eurail alternative, not a taxi alternative.
Sidharth – It’s a great point you raise. I actually myself thought about it the first time I used BlaBlaCar. But BlaBlaCar has put in really good system to ensure safety. Every user has to use real name and photo, and passengers can select which rider to ride with and vice-versa. BlaBlaCar also verifies everyone’s phone numbers and emails. They also encourage you to link your facebook account with BlaBlaCar profile.
Next, one can look for the ratings and reviews of the folks on the other side. That, to my mind, is the most effective way of ensuring safety.