Archive for the ‘Expert Series’ Category

Expert Interview: The Millennials in the Collaborative Economy



Meet Dan Schawbel. He’s an expert on millennials in the workforce.

I’ve known Dan for years, we both worked in the social business space, him at EMC, while I was at HDS.  We learned together, shared insights, and he even featured me in some of his publications.  In my opinion, Dan has become one of the leading voices of the millennial generation.

Not just because he’s in that age range, but because he’s studied the impacts, tracks the trends, and eloquently speaks on TV about millennials in the workforce.  I’ve been talking to Dan, about how the Collaborative Economy is often being lead by this young generation that wants to make a difference.

Like the movement, Dan is focused on helping this generation be self-empowered, and  the Founder of Millennial Branding and the author of the new book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success.  I’ve very selective on who participates in Q&A on my blog, to ensure quality in line with the web strategy mission.  Dan agreed to grant me his generous time in the following Q&A.  Also, he’s on Twitter, you should follow him.

Jeremiah: Is it true that Millennials seek access to goods and products rather than owning them?.  What impacts does that have to brands who’re trying to sell to “Consumers”?  What should brands do?

Dan: A lot of industries are having a lot of trouble engaging millennials. For instance, the automotive industry is in trouble because millennials aren’t buying cars. In 2010, despite being a large percentage of the population, millennials bought only 27% of all new vehicles sold in America, down from 38% in 1985. When it comes to the travel industry, millennials are using and Uber in order to save money and have a unique experience, which is why both are experiencing revenue growth.

The real estate industry is hurting because millennials would rather rent than own property. From 2009 through 2011, just 9% of millennials were approved for a first-time mortgage. Fast food restaurants, especially McDonalds, are hurting because millennials are health conscious. Hamburger chains have seen a 16% decline in traffic from millennials since 2007. Companies, in general, are having a very challenging time retaining millennials and the average tenure for a millennials is only two years.

If you want to sell to millennials, you have to build a strong brand personality, connect with them on social networks, align yourself with a cause, have an open culture and include their opinions as you build new products. They want custom brand experiences that take their wants and needs into account. If you want to retain them as workers, you need to invest in their careers, mentor them, provide them with internal hiring opportunities and feed their entrepreneurial ambitions.

Jeremiah: Do millennials share, if what?  And with who, do they even share with strangers?  

Millennials are more willing than any other generation to post their personal information online yet they don’t want just anyone to have access to their personal data or web history. Relative to older generations, they are the most active and engaged group of social media users. eMarketer reports that 84% of millennials are on social media, whereas only 66% of Gen X and 44% of boomers are. 93% have mobile phones and 63% have smartphones. They are sharing their location, what they’re eating, who they are spending time with, personal achievements and interesting articles they find online. They post images and videos using YouTube, Facebook, Vine and Instagram. They see sharing as a way to express their identities and a way to keep in touch with friends. They all suffer from the “fear of missing out” or FOMO as the media calls it.

Aside from sharing on social media, they also have the same behavior in real life with physical goods. 68% share physical media, which includes books and DVD’s. The most shared physical categories are living space (58%), work space (57%) and food (57%). This makes a lot of sense because millennials carry $45,000 in debt, most of which is student loan debt. Millennials prefer access over ownership, especially when it comes to expensive goods like cars. 55% of millennials have made an effort to drive less, which was 10% back in 2010.

Millennials are more likely to share their opinions and information about their social activities with strangers and also many trust the opinions of strangers over their friends, which is what Bazaarvoice found last year. Many millennials are starting to understand the consequences from over sharing. 10% of millennials have lost a job prospect because of what they’ve posted online. Older generations are swarming social networks now in order to build relationships with millennials and many corporations are creating profiles in order to attract them for sales and recruiting purposes.

Jeremiah: What do they share that’s taboo to others?

One thing that millennials do differently is sharing their salaries with their co-workers. They want a transparent workplace that is open, honest and ethical. The workplace of the past was all about keeping salaries a secret so that employees wouldn’t find out and demand higher wages from their managers. The workplace of tomorrow is all about collaboration and competition in order to drive results.

Jeremiah: What supporting evidence they’re living in the collaborative economy?  How are they sharing the physical work, their time, and space around them?

Millennials would rather work in a collaborative setting than in cubicles. Companies, such as American Express, understand this need and have programs around it. American Express created BlueWork, which is an innovative program designed to support workplace collaboration and promote flexibility. Employees benefit from being able to work side by side with peers and the company benefits from higher productivity. More millennials, especially entrepreneurs, enjoy co-working spaces because they are inexpensive and let them connect with like minded people. In Boston, for instance, we have Work Bar.

When it comes to transportation, research by Zipcar finds that 67% of millennials want media sharing programs, 53% want car sharing programs and 49% want home or vacation sharing programs.  Their intent with sharing is to save money because they have students loans and aren’t finding jobs. When it comes to shipping, they do it together and more than older generations. Kit Yarrow and Jayne O’Donnell’s book “Gen Buy” says that 68% of millennials shop with other people at least half the time, while only 44% of older generations can say the same.

One thing that we looked at this year was how college students collaborate and we found something quite surprising. 75% of students want to study alone instead of with others and only 20% want to study with friends and classmates in person. Based on my experience with millennials, I believe that technology makes it easier for them to form work groups so they don’t have to meet in person. It’s interesting because you would think they would develop collaboration skills in college and then use the same skills when they get into the workplace.

Jeremiah: Why do they share?  What’s in their nature to do this? (Dig in deep here and talk about WHY they share. Maybe look at psychographics and that they’re the first generation on the internet that sharing is a default behavior.)

Millennials share out of necessity. They were heavily impacted by the recession and are very slow to recover. They suffer a 16.1% unemployment rate, which is more than twice the national average of 7.4%. Millennials disclose a lot of personal information in order to stay connected with their peers and take advantage of social, economic and political opportunities. As they build their families, they will want to use the internet to keep in touch with them. By 2020, millennials will be more likely to share information online. We did a study for the 2012 elections and found that the second most popular way that millennials followed the election was on social media. They see social media as a way to keep up with what’s going on in the world and other peoples lives.

Jeremiah: Will they continue this behavior of sharing goods and services in the future?

I predict they will be sharing more in the future and the upcoming generation (Gen Z) will probably do it to an even greater extent. What I find really fascinating is how millennial consumerism and employment collide and it’s something I’m going to study more in the future. CareerBuilder reports that one third of millennials won’t buy from companies that don’t send them a response to their job application. So, for instance, if you’re Coke and you don’t get back to them, they might switch to Pepsi! YouGov did a study on sharing that was also interesting. They found that 55% of millennials share bad experiences on social media. If a company doesn’t treat a millennial fair, they might lose them (and their friends) to a competitor.

Jeremiah: What impacts does this have to work styles that we need to adapt to?  Will they work remote? Will they work in shared offices? What?

Millennials want freedom and flexibility over a higher salary. One of my friends convinced his company to let him work from New York full time instead of accepting a higher salary. Their workplace priorities are completely different than older generations. They want to work remote or from a co-working space instead of having to go to the office every day. This is the first generation that is asking a very important question: “why do we have a 9 to 5 workday in a 24/7 world”? Not every millennial want to work from home but the important thing is that location and the time spend doing the work shouldn’t matter. The workplace should be one hundred percent focused on outcomes and results over everything else and we’re moving to that model, which has been reported on by The Financial Times this year.

Jeremiah: Forecast the future of the collaborative economy and millennials?

I think, and I think you would agree, that there will be more collaboration but it will be more virtual. They will have online work groups with their peers and use video and productivity tools to produce high quality projects. They will take on more projects outside of their job description, collapse organizational hierarchies and work in dispersed locations. The future is bright and the future is right around the corner. As of last year, 15% of millennials were already managers and by next year 36% of the US workforce will be millennials. Change is going to happen much faster than companies realize and most are not prepared for what’s to come.

Jeremiah: Thank you Dan, for sharing your expertise, insight, and research.  I think we can summarize the interview as Millennials share (nearly everything), want flexibility and meaning in their work over rigid work styles and salary.  In summary, access to experiences seem to matter more than hard assets.  We look forward to reading your book soon

Collaborating with the Crowd in your Company’s Supply Chain


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Above Photo: The London Eye contains an intricate network of people, in capsules, networked in a wheel, delicately suspended above the ground in equilibrium. As companies connect to crowds, they too, must balance people and process.

How can corporations learn from Uber, oDesk, Lyft, and ModCloth, to enhance their business functions, like the Supply Chain? Let’s explore that question in this Q&A. Welcome to the new Collaborative Economy Expert Series, where I interview leading thinkers from various business functions regarding the impact of this concept across entire corporations.

Right now, the crowd is getting what it wants from each other. People are using social media to talk to each other. They crowd is using sharing startups like Airbnb, Uber, and, to deliver goods and each other’s services to their peers. They’re also starting to build their own products and services in the maker’s movement. In each of these cases, the crowd is becoming more empowered and enabled to get what they want from each other.

To adapt to these market changes, corporations must adopt the Collaborative Economy, where customers are integrated into every business unit, from marketing, to sales, to innovation . One area that requires more explanation is how product components are sourced, assembled, and then delivered to each other.

This area of supply chain is a focus of my former business partner and close friend, Lora Cecere (twitter), who has started a research firm called Supply Chain Insights that is focused on this topic. She recently allowed me to pose a few questions to her on the subject. I want to bring this to the Web Strategy audience, as these upcoming changes will cross many product lines in your company. The better we reason together, the stronger we’ll all eventually be.

In Sept, I’ll be speaking at Lora’s conference to Supply Chain experts on the Collaborative Economy, and we’ll both drive new ideas and business models with attendees at the Supply Chain Global Summit.

Q&A with Lora Cecere on Supply Chain and the Collaborative Economy
For new readers, read the research report, the collaborative economy, to find out how people are getting what they need from each other –rather than from traditional business models.

Jeremiah of Web Strategy: Where are we on the evolution of the intersection of social and collaboration with supply chain processes?

Lora, of Supply Chain Insights: The average CEO at the typical company is scratching his head. Corporate growth is slowing, supply chain complexity is increasing and most companies are unable to improve operating margins, inventory or working capital cycles. The marketing-driven programs used to shape demand in the last decade have become less and less effective. The rise of mobility, social and ecommerce capabilities offer promise to redefine business models, but most organizations are stuck in an archaic business model. Meanwhile the CEO is trying to sort hype from reality.

The answers are not easily discovered. In most organizations, social data is entering the marketing functional domain, but is not shared with the larger organization. Companies are so used to broadcasting and controlling their message, it is hard for them to move from inside-out thinking to outside-in thinking, a scenario where companies listen, test and learn, based on market signals. There seems to be no place to integrate social data into traditional supply chain architectures.

The Collaborative Economy and the evolution of new business models to drive value-based outcomes offer promise. The change starts with understanding the consumer of the supply chain and mapping the supply chain from the outside in, and asking the question, “What could be redefined in channel relationships to improve value?” And, “How could the use of new technologies be used to redefine business models?”

Jeremiah: We see the crowd using tools like Uber, Lyft, oDesk and Airbnb to activate idle resources, how does this tie to existing models? Is this really new?

Lora: An interesting example of the Collaborative Economy is Performance-Based Logistics (PBL) in the Aerospace and Defense industry. In this supply chain, global governments had a problem. The cost of an airplane and its subsequent maintenance costs were increasing and outpacing budgetary constraints. So a new business model was proposed to the major assemblers of airplanes. It started when the US Army, Air Force and Navy asked if they could move from purchasing airplanes to purchasing “time” on the plane and paying for “up-time.” An analogy in the consumer supply chain would be shifting from selling cars to offering rental car services. The major aircraft providers started adapting their processes. A new business model emerged that has been adopted by NATO. This was a shift in performance-based outcome that changed the production of aircraft from a “cheaper design” to a “built-to-last” mentality.

Jeremiah: Interesting, Performance-Based Logistics (PBL) isn’t too different than some of the activation of idle inventory that we’re seeing in the car-sharing space such as Uber (idle town cars and even ice cream trucks), oDesk (idle workers who can be hired on demand, as needed), and Flightcar, which rents idle cars parked in the long-term lots at major airports. The aircraft illustration parallels something in my last research report. We also found that consumers also want products that are “built-to-last,” as this will impact ability to rent and resell in secondary and tertiary markets.

Jeremiah: How do you see the role of the crowd being involved in supply chain? Are there any examples of this already happening?

Lora: This is a great question. There’s a gap between what is currently happening and the untapped potential, leaving opportunity for first movers. Let me start with where crowd involvement is driving differentiation. Then, I will close with my thoughts on the future potential of how the crowd could drive and differentiate future supply chains.

Apparel and Crowd Sourcing of Design (Modcloth): An early example of the successful use of the voice of the crowd was in the development of customized assortment and input on apparel design. The best example is Modcloth. The company was founded in 2002 and has just recently hit $100M in revenue.

Hallmark’s Use of Crowds to Better Understand Humor: I love Hallmark’s use of social to understand humor and to customize the launch of card programs for demographic regions based submitted card programs. This has allowed Hallmark to streamline card development and assortment based on a more insightful program based on social input.

Test and Learn Strategies: A beginning step for many companies is the use of test-and-learn strategies. As ecommerce sales grow for consumer packaged goods companies, those companies are able to use rating and review data from online sales as an early indicator of product success to adapt the launch of those products into traditional channels based on customer feedback. The feedback from ecommerce sales is received within days and weeks, while feedback from conventional channels takes weeks and months.

Jeremiah: What are the top entry points for supply chain professionals to work with the crowd, either in social media or beyond?

Lora: The first step for the supply chain professional is to walk across the hallway and establish a discussion with their digital marketing team (often a sub-group within marketing) and begin to ask the questions about how social technologies could be used to sense demand, shape product offerings and drive new business models. They need to brainstorm “what could be” as though starting with a blank sheet of paper, leaving archaic, preexisting thinking out of the discussion. The potential is very promising, but if organizations cannot break out of working deep within their existing silos, they will be unable to unleash the potential.

Jeremiah: In the new space, the Collaborative Economy, we are seeing startups that are enabling the crowd to get what they want from each other. Startups like, DeliveryCrowd, Nearbors and Taskrabbit enable the crowd to deliver products to each other. What impact does this have on supply chain?

Lora: was in South Africa last month and heard a fascinating presentation on mobility in Africa. The race is among consumer products companies to successfully build distribution channels into countries in Africa where the average wage rates are low. The presentation was on the use of a mobile application for farmers. The design was to enable collaborative economy model for the sharing of expensive assets for farming. The mobile-enabled co-op allowed farmers to jointly own expensive farm equipment and share maintenance costs. The application also enables the sharing of information about product usage and crop yield.

Avon and Amway, with their use of in-home sales channels, were early forms of the Collaborative Economy. As consumer products companies adapt channel models for the African economy, they are aggressively considering the use of collaborative economy concepts in the design of the channel. Mobile wallets, sales from home, and the sharing of inventory investments are key considerations.

Jeremiah: What do you forecast as the future of the Collaborative Economy and supply chains going forward? Where can we learn more?

Lora: Just as Amazon used ecommerce to successfully build a new business model, I think that there will be new players who will seize the potential of the collaborative economy. Economics is driving it, but the barriers within the traditional organizations are going hinder companies from easily seizing the opportunity.

It takes a whole new mindset with a “blank sheet of paper.” Having a blank sheet of paper does not mean using it to write down the same, worn-out concepts.

We will be talking about the emergence of new technologies and the evolution of new business models at the Supply Chain Insights Global Summit on September 11th and 12th. I am pleased that you are a speaker. I would encourage companies to visit our website and register for the event. Visit our website at Supply Chain Insights for more information.

I’d like to thank Lora for her time in answering these questions. If you’ve further comments, questions, or reactions, please leave a comment. Also, what type of other experts do you think should be on this Q&A Expert series? I’m considering legal, regulatory, economic, and city-level topics are in order.