5-year path to full monetisation
Looking forward, Williams said Microsoft must “explore multiple angles” to best monetise its investment in LinkedIn along with investments in operations, development, sales and expansion.
“Some options offer immediate opportunities while others require additional investment,” he explained.
“The key to growth, however, will be maintaining engagement with LinkedIn members while connecting them to new services and opportunities via data, tool, platforms and commerce in Microsoft’s ecosystem.”
Immediately however, Williams believes the vendor can drive LinkedIn growth via “robust Microsoft advertising and balance sheet” activities, which includes expanding the subscriber community via premium content, connections and career support.
In addition, expansion plans for LinkedIn advertising and marketing are expected to commence in the near future, built around the need to connect members to offers and services based on profile information, which also fuels the Adobe Marketing Cloud alliance struck in September 2016.
Delving deeper, Williams expects Redmond to expand recruiting, education and training services on the plans, while pushing Microsoft productivity and business processes, connecting LinkedIn members to tools and vice versa.
Within this, the initial integration benefits for Office 365 will be around connecting content and work with people doing the work, alongside using Dynamics 365 to map LinkedIn members with business interests and needs, and then connect buyer needs with seller operations and production.
“Once it connects its portfolios and members with those of LinkedIn, Microsoft can begin to build new transactional marketplaces for education, goods and services needed by professionals and their enterprises,” Williams outlined.
In a sense, Williams said LinkedIn is a globally available marketing platform that tracks its more than 400 million members.
Consequently, Microsoft can capture a transaction fee by supporting the commerce conducted by the network of LinkedIn members, which only increases the value of membership.
“A mature business-to-business (B2B) example is the SAP Ariba Network, which connects the trading partners, processes and back-end systems of over two million companies and supports 16.4 million users conducting nearly $1 trillion in annual commerce,” he explained.
“Another example is Amazon Marketplace, which tracks over 285 million consumer profiles and enables two million large and small businesses to sell on the Amazon platform.
“Amazon Marketplaces generates nine per cent to 12 per cent of Amazon’s total revenue and represents nearly pure profit, since the selling partners use existing Amazon capacity.”
To build out B2B or business-to-member marketplaces, Williams believes Microsoft needs to build or acquire multiple critical components to work at a global scale and at enterprise levels of service.
For Williams, this includes a marketing automation platform, a recommendation engine for buyers and a reputation management engine for enterprises.
Furthermore, value can be found in providing a commerce engine that connects to enterprises for purchase orders and contracts, alongside a payments engine and learning management systems, helping to create an ecosystem of business, advertising, education and development partners in the process.
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