Welcome to the Era of Me2B (Part Two)

restaurants & retail

Welcome to the Era of Me2B (Part Two)

Reaching New Frontiers in the Relationship Between People, Data, and Business

March 30, 2021
by Pietro DuchiGuelmy Alcocer
Me2B Illustration-article 2

In part one of our series on the Era of Me2B, we explored a paradigm shift set to take place over the next 10 years. Consumers will increasingly take control of their own data, effectively joining the dots of their digital identity and using it to reach services and experiences at the convergence of privacy and hyper-personalization. Here, we paint a picture of what the impact means across different domains, and how to start preparing for these disruptions now.

The Intention Economy: The End of Marketing as We Know it

David Searls published the book, The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge, in 2012. The key idea in that volume was that in the (then just emerging, now quickly maturing) decentralized web, we would be able to signal our buying intentions to trusted brands, consciously allowing access to our data in exchange for offers, micro-services, and products built entirely around our needs.

Instead of only marketers targeting consumers, consumers (i.e. “Me”) will directly target marketers/brands (i.e. the “B” of business) when they are ready to shop or buy. Instead of search and direct marketing as the basis of e-commerce, this new business paradigm (Me2B) will be based on ethical, intentional matching (while not eliminating the need for great brand awareness).

Our personal AIs will help us convey our layered and nuanced intentions: Thanks to new semantic approaches, they’ll be able to understand complex requests made up of different parameters and detailed inputs. The potential is to finally be able to live a truly smart life, without caring about “phrasing it right” or about whether the result will be what we’re actually looking for.

This intention economy will not only impact the relationship between customers and brands—it will also impact business to business interaction. Among its impacts, it will streamline production, lower supply chain, marketing, selling, returns and other costs, and eliminate many intermediaries and middlemen.

Me2B in Action: Envisioning Radical Impact Across Different Industries

Imagine Sarah, a woman at a pivotal moment in her life and career. She’s just been asked to relocate from London to Bangkok for six months to follow a freelance project. A prospect that is exciting on the surface, but likely daunting in terms of organization and adaptation to a completely new environment.

Thankfully, Sarah’s personal AI will be ready to step in. By simply communicating her intention—“I need to move to Bangkok for six months”—a process of instant signaling, data exchange, and matching will be set in motion, engaging different brands and entities across different industries, and presenting the results to give Sarah the final choice.

Real estate brands catering to digital nomads could leverage specific elements of Sarah’s digital twin, including details of her existing home, to propose the perfect home away from home. By understanding the new requirements of their customer’s nomad lifestyle, connectivity providers could provide hyper-personalized services to match Sarah’s needs minute-by-minute. As a baseline but essential step, the connectivity provider would “follow” Sarah in her Thai journey without the need for new local contracts—thanks to global reach through LEO Satellite Constellations.

Sarah would need a new wardrobe—one that considers the climate differences between London and Bangkok. By analyzing her exact biometrics, Retailers could create clothes that are perfectly tailored, using Auxetic structures to support her posture during long working hours at home as well as at the Bangkok office, and determining the right textile mix for the continuous shifts between outdoors tropical heat and air-conditioned interiors. Brands could analyze Sarah’s style icons to determine cut, textures, details, as well as understand her values and priorities to provide the right match in terms of ethics of production and supply chains.

Another key aspect will be healthcare, and enabling its full continuity during her time abroad. Sarah would be able to take all of her health information with her and receive custom insurance plans in collaboration with local healthcare providers and to ensure she can continue any existing cures or prevention plans. Continuous connected tracking of health stats could be ensured, to be analyzed by dedicated doctors both at home in London and in Bangkok.

Preparing for Me2B: Start Experimenting Now

In this future, while some businesses will cease to be relevant as-is (think of e-commerce platforms as they are now, or advertising-heavy social networks), many others (the ones that produce, own, and sell products, services and content) will see their “core” remain the same, but will have to shift the way they do things.

The steps on the path from our present to this future, while considered by some unstoppable, is not crystal clear. Our recommendation for businesses is to get ready for paradigm shift early: even as you rightfully continue to operate under the current model. There is value in creating internal projects and task forces on the side that nimbly experiment with the possibilities Me2B will bring.

Plunge into the future of your company. Whitespace innovation tracks, focused on understanding how to thrive in the intention economy, will kickstart an internal change of mindset and provide potential proof of concepts and even side businesses. They are essential in foreseeing future impacts, new roles within the organization, new processes (from supply chain to production to partnerships), and business models.

Rethink how you design products and services. How can you truly leverage customer data and define new processes to generate offerings that adapt overtime to different customer requests? For physical products, this might translate in designing a system of parts and components ready to be adapted to individual needs each time.

Experiment with AI and Blockchain. Blockchain lies at the base of secure data interactions. AI is essential for intention capture and reconfiguration/generation of offering, as well as for AI-powered interactions with customers (or their personal AIs). With both distributed ledgers and AI, it’s essential to invest in projects that implement new generalized technology foundations, as well as in smaller-scale early experimentations and proofs of concept that can lead to advantages in mainstream applications and in getting ready for when they will become the norm.

Don’t wait on the sidelines to see how Me2Be evolves, but rather participate actively in shaping it. There are concrete opportunities for large players to bring Me2B from niche to mainstream and start with an advantage as we move from internet of the masses to internet of the individual.

Image by Federica Bagini

filed in: restaurants & retail , healthcare, complex systems, artificial intelligence, digital design

About the Author

  • PD
    Pietro Duchi

    Pietro is a Senior Innovation Consultant (Strategy & Digital Design) at EPAM Continuum Milan, where he partners with leading organisations in looking years ahead to identify future challenges and near-term solutions. His areas of expertise cover retail, food & beverage, and employee experience as well as healthcare & wellbeing. He is constantly on the lookout for fresh input, focusing in particular on the complex relationship between people, technology, and on our ever-changing sociological and political environment. Pietro has lead cutting-edge field research a across four continents, with a particular focus on Generation Z youth, including a recent project driving public engagement on Antimicrobial Resistance.

    Before EPAM Continuum, Pietro completed the Master of European Design program, exploring communication design, service design, strategic design, and creative sustainability, at Politecnico di Milano, Glasgow School of Art, and Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland.

  • Guelmy Alcocer
    Guelmy Alcocer

    Guelmy is a multidisciplinary designer passionate about using design to drive innovation and create omnichannel experiences but always with a human touch. She has a focus on digital innovation and creative strategies applied to products, services, and communication within digital and physical systems.

    She has more than 12 years of experience on design consultancy to domestic and international clients.