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The Relationship Economy – A Revolution in Commerce

We speak of virtual reality, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence and how they (will one day) transform our world. But while we focus on the shiny promises of pitch decks, we are experiencing a fundamental shift in the most basic aspects of commerce.

Commerce began as a transaction. Goods were bartered. Metals, coins and bills became proxies for value to add fluidity to transactions. Letters of credit, cheques, then credit-cards dematerialized money. But millennia after the first sheep was traded for a cask of wine, commerce remained transactional; until very recently.

From ABInbev, the world’s largest beer manufacturer founded in 1366, to BMW, to BP, traditional industries are moving from a conventional sell and forget model, to a subscription or recurring based model.

With this shift, transactional commerce is mutating into lifecycle commerce. On the face of it, a subscription may seem relatively un-revolutionary when stacked against the colonization of Mars and Neuralink but a subscription is much more than a recurring payment. A subscription is a relationship, a link, between every user, consumer, and customer and all the businesses and services they rely on. Less glamorous than space travel, perhaps; but less impactful of the everyday lives of billions of individuals, perhaps not.

At Chargebee, we named this new commerce paradigm the Relationship Economy. We presented our vision of the future of commerce during Oracle Open World last October in San Francisco and were awarded with the #biztechSF Chamber of Commerce prize for 2017.

The Relationship Economy centers around the customer lifecycle from try and buy to upgrades and customer support. The Relationship Economy depends on data, multiple teams across organizations, payment options to manage expiring cards and new payment methods like Bitcoin and ApplePay, and the ability to segment across products and customers to deliver custom experiences at scale.

We believe businesses require new billing intelligence tools to deliver commercial experiences rather than transactions. Businesses that do not adapt to this new world of churn, cohorts, and segments will become artefacts as fast as cassette tapes.

When we applied to this competition, we feared that “billing” would lose out to shinier promises of a post-work. But framed in the context of the profound shift toward a relationship-based commerce, the judges recognized the tangible transformations brought by the Relationship Economy impacting every industry across the world.

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