“The Concierge Economy”, And Why It Matters

Stuart Elmes

If I asked you to close your eyes and picture a concierge, what would you see? Probably a snooty man with impeccable hair, a dark suit, and the nametag of some fancy hotel on his lapel, murmuring “I will personally attend to it, sir.” But today, the concierge is no longer only available at Metropoles, Ritz-Carltons and Hiltons. Millions of people have a concierge sitting in their living room, and billions have a concierge sitting patiently in their purse or front pocket.

Your concierge is now named Alexa, or Siri, or Google rather than Pierre or Jeeves, and these voice-activated applications are building an economy all their own...

The concierge economy is growing extremely quickly.

But what exactly is the concierge economy? As defined by an automobile trade publication, “concierge services include anything that puts items or services in front of customers before they even realize they need it. It’s the approach behind grocery stores that present coupons and special offers based on a customer’s shopping habits and previous purchases. It’s what drives the code behind those spot-on recommendations from Amazon and Netflix.”

How Does It Work?

Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Consumers benefit from saving money on products they will soon realize they desperately need, and companies offering these services will reap the benefits of increased sales and closer relationships with their customers. The concierge economy has expanded into apps like Taskrabbit and Fiverr that allow the wealthy and busy to outsource any inconvenient task they’d rather avoid. A few years ago, the writer Annie Lowry used these appsto do all of her household chores and tasks for the purposes of an article. She did this, as she puts it “to see for myself how well the new what-you-want-when-you-want-it industry really works, and what kind of future it might help usher in, I decided to undertake a little experiment. For two weeks, I did as little as humanly possible aside from read and write. I passed off anything that could be classified as an errand, housework, or chore. And it worked.”

But in 2015 these services were only truly available for the very wealthy, and the apps which allowed people to outsource grocery shopping and dog walking were a niche industry. What has been happening since? As Lowry noted 3 years ago, “Acting as a middleman between cheap service workers and flush consumers is such a compelling business model that tech behemoths including Uber, Google, and Amazon are getting in on it.” In the years since, the concierge economy has been developing rapidly, leveraging artificial intelligence and improved logistics to vault into the mainstream of global commerce.

Where Are We Now?

Unlike a young, tech-savvy, Silicon Valley millionaire, the average consumer was never going to download an app and set up a PayPal account to avoid the grocery store or paint their fence. But through savvy marketing and technological innovation, Google and Amazon, in particular, have pushed voice-activated, AI-powered digital assistants into millions of homes. The middle-aged housewife who was unlikely to set up an account on Fiverr will be comfortably asking Amazon or Google or Siri to have breakfast cereal delivered to her door through Amazon prime. The college student who couldn’t afford to pay someone to do his laundry while preparing for finals might ask Google to take care of it. By lowering the barrier to entry from setting up complicated accounts to simply saying a sentence into a speaker, Amazon and its ilk have transformed the concierge economy from a pricey niche into an open door that we feel society is about to walk through.

Where are we Going?

The essence of the concierge economy is convenience and customer service. The consumer wants to accomplish their shopping or a variety of other tasks, as quickly as possible while expending the least mental and physical energy. Pete Blackthorne, Nestle’s Global Head of Digital Innovation and Service Models, sees the concierge economy as a chance to merge enhanced customer service with voice technology, to create better relationships with his consumers. He notes that “I think voice falls into [the concierge economy]: It’s both utility and it’s entertainment. And, for us, it’s a potential service layer that sits on top of our brand.” Blackthorne feels that analyzing customer questions and feedback can help brands to establish voice features which anticipate and fulfil the needs of his consumers. He notes that if “you look at our call-centre databases, you find a lot of unclaimed territory – questions that people are asking – and think, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s my idea for Alexa’ or ‘Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what I need to do for chatbots.”

In addition to customer service, new and better “internet brains” will create voice-activated apps that create greater and greater convenience. One is “Viv” conceived by two of the engineers who helped create Siri, then left Apple in pursuit of a new vision. Robert Scoble, writing for LinkedIn, explains the difference between the two concierges:

“Why is it different? Well, Siri can’t answer many questions like “how many people are checked in on Foursquare at the Half Moon Bay Ritz?” Why can’t it? Well, Siri is hard coded. Foursquare does have an answer. Foursquare has an API. Siri does understand the question. It just isn’t “hooked up” so fails over to Bing and gives a stupid answer. Viv is going to fix a bunch of those problems, but even better, is going to build a profile on you that will assist you in the future and save you clicks. 
Ask it to bring you a “large pepperoni pizza from Dominos” and it will know you find Dominos an acceptable pizza restaurant and that you like pepperoni pizza. The next time you ask for pizza it could ask “would you like your usual large pepperoni pizza from Dominos?”

Much like Viv, AdimoVoice is a voice-based, AI equipped app for Amazon, which allows brands and retailers to offer consumers the convenience of shopping online for the brands they trust, from the retailers they prefer. It will also create a profile for you which allows you to order all of your favourite products simply by uttering a sentence long command! If you’re worried about being left out of the burgeoning concierge economy, give us a call today.