While looking for insurance policies, I reached the pages of some very interesting platforms that listed out a variety of policies. These platforms allowed me to compare options and gave me an excellent costumed response while the chat function allowed me to ask simple questions. The whole experience was far more peaceful than scouring the internet and spending time on the phone speaking to specific companies. This is the world of an aggregator platform and I started thinking about the various forms of aggregators that seem to surround us.
In Bahrain, Talabat is something everyone is familiar with. The idea is so simple, a platform for restaurants to list themselves on and sell their products though. Talabat is a marketplace platform rather than an aggregator. The largest marketplace platform is Amazon. The principals are the same. The platform is the front face for delivery, an online infrastructure, a client interface and a delivery mechanism. When you have an issue, you speak to the marketplace and rarely the original provider. All services are provided under the providers own brands that are listed on the marketplace platform.
But the idea of aggregation is even more widespread. Take Uber for instance, it’s a platform where service providers who don’t have access to technology list their services. This is a classic aggregator service.
Take that idea further ahead and we now have fitness aggregators like Fittr where you can choose from a bevy of coaches and fitness experts that will provide you with a nutrition plan and even an exercise schedule. In September 2021, Fittr raised USD 11.5 million as its first round of funding.
Even more interesting to me was aggregation of mental health and counselling services. You log in to platforms and choose your mental care provider and receive therapy. You can see who the therapist is, read reviews, rate and change therapists if needed. In January 2021, New York-based Talkspace, which provides therapy via a subscription-based online platform, announced its plans to merge with a Special Purchase Acquisition Company (SPAC) in a deal valuing the behavioral health startup at $1.4 billion.
Whatever the aggregator, almost all of them are using varied forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. This helps to provide a very customized and seamless experience for the end customers.
This is where it gets interesting. The investment in technology infrastructure and more importantly a machine learning and AI driven platform, is expensive. However, the benefits and savings in other areas can be quite high. Used effectively, machines can understand patterns in customer behavior and increase customer engagement to a very high extent.
Almost every entity and service are now being aggregated into some platform or marketplace system – be it banking, insurance, medical services, retail products, fitness, nutrition, domestic help and even matrimonial applications.
To me however, the whole idea, while making business sense, is not necessarily good for the entrepreneurs in these spaces that are providing the services. The only way for a platform to make money is commission, and new businesses run on thin margins. Yet, unless aligned with an aggregator, the presence of a new business could remain unknown.
“You have to spend money to make money” – this is another cost added to the business plan of most new entrepreneurs today. As a business concept, however it ticks the boxes as being a very sophisticated classified system with a very targeted reach, thereby increasing the chances of a sale.