Platforms vs. Ecosystems: The Difference Between a Solid Digital Client Experience and a So-So One

technology platforms

At first mention, the difference between a platform and an ecosystem isn’t obvious. But at Carson, saying the former will result in you forking over a $5 bill. But the difference between the two words goes deeper than a reluctant reach into your wallet.

To us, a “platform” is the base level of services you could provide a client. Everyone at least has a platform these days – it’s like having a website. “Ecosystem” goes a step further and then some – it is the all-encompassing future of client experience, from investments to technology.

With a platform, you aren’t necessarily getting the best of the breed, you’re getting the best your vendor offers. An ecosystem is connected. Its parts speak to each other and adjust accordingly. So why the dropped jaws when someone drops the “p” word at Carson?

A platform is stable, consistent, flat and stationary – not necessarily bad qualities, but not great either. “Not bad, but not great” is not the level of services we think advisors should offer their clients. An ecosystem, on the other hand, is as if a coach handpicked the best players in the league for each position. It’s comprised of the best solutions and technology.

It all comes back to the digital client experience (or CX, as it is known in the marketing world). What kind of experience are you giving your clients?

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On a basic level, using an ecosystem over a platform is about creating a solid digital client experience. On a deeper level, it’s about continually listening to our partners and adding value. Choosing an ecosystem over a platform is about more than keeping the client in mind when selecting or building technology. It’s about keeping the client at the center of attention in everything we do.

Ecosystems Thrive In Big Brands

Take a look at the top global brands of today – Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft. We could argue about what makes these brands so successful, but their quick ascent and the remarkable gap between the top four brands and the rest of the pack is unquestionable. I’d argue that many of these brands with such great success have curated more of an ecosystem rather than a platform.

Ecosystems nurture and thrive on innovation. Platforms ignore change until it’s too late. It’s why you see a lot of brands drop off the top-15 chart as 2018 nears.

They didn’t adapt to their customers’ changing needs or the changing landscape. People aren’t looking for a low-cost product or service, they’re looking for a high-value product or service. And they aren’t necessarily looking to save money, but to save time. A great client experience homes in on that and simplifies lives.

By no accident, the brands at the top of the list are well-known for their exceptional digital client experiences, which are largely built on ecosystems. Apple offers a slew of products and services from laptops and phones to music streaming and television alternatives. Microsoft owns LinkedIn and Skype, among other companies. And Google is always online for you.

At Play in the Financial Industry

In the financial industry, platform vs. ecosystem comes down to the question: “What adds the most value to my client?” More often than not, the answer will be an ecosystem. All the services are connected and work together to create the best client experience possible.

That outcome is only reached by listening to clients and knowing their needs – an activity platforms don’t require. By asking for feedback from our clients, we’re able to champion the experience for our advisors. Our clients’ voices are important and second loudest only to the clients they serve. We listen, deliver and validate.

A lot of technology platforms grow to a certain level until someone has to curate and manage it for you. That’s not what the future of experience should be. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t have to rely on a system that doesn’t take your needs into consideration.

We want advisors in our ecosystem to have a voice the same way their clients do. Brands and firms don’t want customers or clients going somewhere else for a service they could provide. An ecosystem provides the environment to focus on client experience. The difference between a platform and ecosystem is more than a $5 bill – it’s the potential success of the company.

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