Consumer-facing businesses need to focus on developing agile, software-based propositions to enhance customer experience to survive in today’s changing business marketplace, Jeff Lawson, CEO of API company Twilio, said.

Speaking during today’s Conversational Commerce keynote at Mobile World Congress, Lawson warned companies stuck in a ‘non-software mentality’ risk being overrun by companies with more agile approaches across a range of industries.

Lawson cited the example of the peer-to-peer money transfer company TransferWise as a successful businesses that adopted his software-centric, agile approach to a traditional business area. He then called on TransferWise CEO Taavet Hinrikus to outline the company’s success in supplying reduced rate remittance services to compete with traditional banking institutions and now has over a million customers.

“Differentiation is built not bought,” Lawson said, before emphasising the need to constantly update the service being offered. He said that by having fewer hardware-based, fixed elements in a proposition updates and iterations to customer propositions were much easier to perform.

“Obsession with customer experience is one of the reasons companies will win,” Lawson said. “The pace of software innovation is moving at such a high rate. That ability to constantly shift, add new updates, listen to your customers, get feedback, launch in new countries, is going to drive us to success.

“I think we are heading into a period of Darwinian natural selection. Companies that adapt quickly to changing customer preferences are going to be those who survive. Every industry is going to become a software industry. The question is not whether you, as a company, ultimately build versus buy, it’s whether you build versus die.”

The comments came in a session outlining the potential for companies to engage with customers through applications, including using chat bots as virtual sales advisors or customer service agents. Applications have already been launched by several brands using platforms including Facebook Messenger and WeChat.