Platform Businesses and How They Relate to Platform Marketing


The world has been taken over by platforms. Every day there are literally thousands of new apps launched, each carrying with it the hopes and dreams of a developer hoping it becomes the next Instagram, Uber, Airbnb or, um, Fortnite.

They would probably settle for fraction of that kind of success, but platforms like the aforementioned Instagram, Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, et al., have the run of our lives. This digital and platform revolution has meant tremendous opportunities for marketers, so it is safe to say that with the rise of platform business has come the rise of the platform marketer.

A platform business, as described by McKinsey Digital, are digital environments with open infrastructures that play matchmaker to link people with other people, organizations and services. Platform businesses are a hallmark of the so-called gig economy because businesses have virtually unlimited access to freelance laborers as long as their value propositions are strong enough, but they can also create new markets where there were none before. 

A platform business essentially creates a community, or micromarket, of suppliers and customers that communicate and do business with each other via a custom platform. Amazon, for example, created a platform where customers can have access to virtually endless retailers and vice versa. Though Amazon does sell goods itself, it really took off when it opened up the platform to third-party vendors. That is how Amazon became known as “the everything store.”

Indeed, a platform model is the favored business model of 7 of the top 12 largest corporations in the world, according to McKinsey. It is an economic shift away from “industries” and more toward ecosystems and communities, all centered around eCommerce and web and app-based interfaces.

Likewise, platform marketing leverages these digital platforms to access audiences, and, along with the new wealth of customer information that these platforms provide, develop marketing strategies to deliver personal, holistic and data-driven customer experiences. All of this is made possible by the addressability allowed by these digital channels. Marketers, now more than ever, know who they are talking to and can tailor more personalized, or addressable, marketing messages because of it.

Because of this, today’s marketers must be flexible and knowledgable enough to identify the opportunities presented by not only the biggest platforms around such as Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon, but must also constantly be on the lookout for the next big player to join the platform party. 

In this brave new world of platform businesses and platform marketing, and as businesses more-and-more begin to discover the potential that platforms embody for their long-term growth, marketers must be there every step of the way to make sure they are keeping pace with the rapid rate of change so they can continue to deliver more personalized, targeted, and customer-focused marketing experiences.