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The Next Frontier for Winning Brands? Ecosystems, Says Accenture

Turns out, Three Dog Night’s chart-topping 1969 classic was right: one is the loneliest number, after all.

According to a new Accenture report, business ecosystems will define the next generation of top-performing brands and companies, creating new business models, launching innovative consumer solutions and growing profits in the process. Rather than going it alone, brands will find strength in numbers.

In fact, more than 60 percent of retail executives cited in the “Cornerstone of future growth: Ecosystems” report expect ecosystems to drive more than half of their corporate revenue in the five years ahead. On top of that, cooperation with like-minded, growth-minded partners will inform the way forward, as the majority (82 percent) of retail leaders said their future strategy will result from exchanging customer insights, industry expertise and technology prowess with outside firms.

Some businesses already have seized upon the lucrative ecosystem opportunity. In the retail sector, Adidas and IKEA just unveiled an unexpected partnership that will investigate how living spaces can better facilitate home-based fitness and healthy living routines. Bringing together tech, transportation and medicine, Uber Health enables hospitals and other health care facilities to schedules patient rides, reducing the stress on individuals with chronic illnesses and trimming no-show rates for those with transportation and mobility challenges.

Accenture describes business ecosystems as a network composed of cross-industry players aligned with the goal of outlining, developing and executing solutions that carve out new markets and opportunities. Not all ecosystems are created equal, Accenture noted: a participant might contribute a full component of a consumer solution, for example, or contribute a needed capability.

Business executives said that the ability to innovate (63 percent) is the biggest benefit they expect to derive from participating in an ecosystem. Though they see how forming an ecosystem will position them as market disruptors, some businesses (37 percent) struggle to maintain their current operations whilst investigating their new partnerships and collaborations. “Ecosystems require new mindsets and resource allocation,” Accenture said.

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On top of this, there’s also the control factor. Many companies balk at the idea of sharing secrets and assets with others (44 percent), especially competitors, and are unwilling to let others take charge. Yet ecosystems require open cooperation and an inclination to exchange information freely. Accenture said that businesses can institute proper governance frameworks not only to assuage concerns around ceding control but also to foster goodwill among ecosystem participants.

Ultimately, businesses looking to disrupt through partnerships have their eye on the bottom line. “Enabled by digital platforms, ecosystems could unlock $100 trillion of value for business and wider society over the next 10 years,” Accenture said.