Loyalty-centredness in digital platforms – What really is that?

My co-authors and I have proposed a two-factor structure to explain the underlying structure of the sources of value creation in an aggregator platform for digital services in agriculture (AP4DSA). This is in a recently published research paper in the Digital Business Journal. We termed the two concepts represented in the two-factor structure as platform-wide efficiency and loyalty centredness. I wrote a brief summary of the issues in the research here. It’s has been some weeks since the publication was out. As I further explore the prospects of AP4DSAs, I ask myself – what really does loyalty centredness mean? In the paper’s discussion section, we attempted to explain the concept in line with where our evidence pointed us. I am obliged to look further into the term and to perhaps solicit more insights from all you fellow thinkers and readers.

Loyalty centredness according to the research is an attribute arising in the viewpoint of likely digital platform users, meshing together the ideas of loyalty and innovativeness. It evokes the notion of altruism and engagement with a digital platform according to the paper. This is as the users or stakeholders feel an increased sense of ownership and affiliation to the platform. The research paper further relates loyalty-centredness with an accountability arrangement among participating actors to generate win-win scenarios for both providers and consumers of services on a platform. According to the paper, the concept suggests the need for a platform to safeguard its ecosystem-wide integrity whereby, “genuineness and legitimacy of actors as well as the information, goods and services accessed through the platform can be guaranteed”. You may read further on these and other explanations of the concept in the research paper which is freely downloadable under a creative commons licence on the link below.

sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666954421000065

To further illuminate the concept beyond the inherent space limitations of a published scientific article, I have hived off the loyalty-centreness half from the two-factor structure in the figure below :-

Loyalty centredness as a source of value creation in an AP4DSA (adapted from Kieti et al. 2021)

In the diagram, the rectangular boxes illustrate the indicators measured to have strong influences on the loyalty centredness concept. For instance, creating and moderating a virtual community – L4 for users to interact on such a digital platform is influential in value creation as an indicator of loyalty centredness. Likewise, introducing new to the world products, services or information – N1 on the digital platform can strongly influence loyalty centredness as a source of value creation. As such, an increase in any of the 10 indicators results in an increase in loyalty centredness as a collective notion and a source of value creation in the platform.

Essentially, we used the term Loyalty centredness to represent a collective of the 10 indicators in the rectangular boxes. The notion captured in these 10 indicators is certainly not about user-human centred design as might be tempting to broaden out to. It is also more distinct than the wider concept of user centricity. The indicators in yellow(ish) boxes were initially from the concept of loyalty while the items in pink(ish) boxes were from the concept of innovativeness. In the research, the two indicators with the highest influence on loyalty centredness were from the loyalty concept. These most influential indicators were, (a) guarantees for reliability and quality – L6 and (b) upholding trust – L2 which includes ensuring data protection, safety and security guidelines are adhered to. For more on these influences and their strengths, see their factor loadings in Figure 4 of the published paper. These stronger influences and the higher number of indicators from loyalty than innovativeness informed our conceptualization of the collective notion as loyalty centredness.

In the published paper, we argued that, “a new innovation may be onboarded and showcased on a platform yet not be ready to exhibit the kind of reliability and quality guarantees expected by the loyal platform users“. Among the Kenyan participants, it would be that aspects of innovativeness foster the sense of loyalty and pride in affiliating with the platform. Arguably, the indicators from innovativeness might have proved to be more impactful on the resulting collective concept if the research was conducted in a country where the history of innovations in digital agriculture was not as long as Kenya’s. Likely users in those countries may as well have rated the innovativeness indicators more highly, being more easily impressed by such nascent efforts. As such, it may be that innovativeness aspects can be more impactful than the loyalty aspects in those countries.

I am thinking that loyalty-centredness might have acquired a slightly different name if the research was conducted in a country where the excitement and buzz about digital innovations for agriculture are still fresh. This thinking may be worth validation with further investigation among likely AP4DSA users in other sub-Saharan African countries. It may also be argued that in due course, such sub-Saharan African countries would still evolve their digital agriculture ecosystems to the slightly more advanced situation in Kenya. Therefore they would still have to face the concept of loyalty-centredness as a source of value creation in an AP4DSA as their ecosystems evolve.

I am curious to hear what others interested in the value creation mechanisms of digital platforms think about this notion of loyalty centredness.

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