The Sharing Economy is the Future of Business
When a new disruptive idea emerges there is always a temptation to minimize its importance. The desire to keep its impact small, to treat it as a nice side project: full of good intentions, but not really scalable to a global market or across different industries.
This temptation is well known, we all experience it when dealing with the new. I recently learned it even has a name: the anti-originality bias. It is not our fault, it is our nature:
“Far too many important and original ideas have been killed by a once necessary self-preservation reflex that has little value in the modern world — a world that in many ways is struggling to reinvent itself in order to save itself.”
The sharing economy is no exception to this rule. Some early adapters envision it as the new normal. Others see it as a niche: interesting to observe but not so crucial to understand. That is a bad bet to make.
Think about services like Lyft, Sidecar or Uber. They only had a handful of cars in San Francisco two years ago, and now it is a new service and experience disrupting one of the most established industries. The mindset is spreading and no market is “safe” as the famous VC, Fred Wilson confirms on his blog, citing an article from Christina Cacioppo after a short trip to San Francisco:
“I’ve started to believe the leverage in the “sharing economy” will be in opening regulated industries. SF cabs were atrocious because there are too few medallions. (Turns out the medallion holders, keen to restrict medallion supply, were well-incented lobbyists, as any good monopolist should be.) The revolutionary part of Lyft and Sidecar is that those companies decided, forget the medallion battles! and let’s just increase the number of drivers on the road.”
If you think the sharing economy is led by a bunch of small startups and that this margin economy does not concern monopolies, old institutions or big corporations, you are missing what this revolution is really about: the empowerment of your consumer, or as I should say right now, your user.
Avis acquired Zipcar for many different reasons, one main one being they know they have to embrace this new model.
Consuming will never be the same anymore. A whole generation has understood that participation, collaboration and co-creation makes us feel better about who we are and what we do. We are also deciding that we don’t need anyones permission for it either.
This new mindset does not concern a small group of businesses directly involved in the sharing economy movement, but all of us. The sharing economy concerns any company and/or service as it has become a key aspect of any brand. It’s no longer about what you are doing but how people feels when they interact with you, your product or project. Kathy Sierra, founder of the Creating Passionate Users blog and game developer explains:
“It doesn’t matter what users think of YOU. What matters is what they think and feel about themselves as a result of interacting with (using) your product or service.”
The sharing economy empowers both sides of the table, the creators of this new relationship between a company and its users, its direct beneficiaries. You will feel great when you embrace this new mindset, when you become a collaborator, when your life becomes easier and more meaningful and when you are not only a human being with a wallet in your back pocket.
At The Mesh 2013, organized by Lisa Gansky in San Francisco last week, I saw many different industries represented and was not even surprised to see Walmart there. They have already started experimenting with sharing economy principles thanks to a radical plan to have store customers deliver to online buyers. No brand can ignore what users not only want but have become thanks to the digital revolution.
The sharing economy is a new shift powered by the development of technologies and amplified by our devices. These new tools create unprecedented power for your audience and bring business back to their roots as Lisa wrote in a recent article on The Rise of Pre-commerce:
“While the social nature of business is nothing new, the recent rise of globally networked social media and the growth of the sharing economy has changed the rules of the game. Old business models are coming apart at the seams. Outsourcing, crowd funding, viral marketing and access or subscription-based services are challenging historically favored strategies in many areas—including, perhaps most surprisingly, product development. The fantasy that the customer waits for products to be developed and distributed suddenly appears to be so last century.”
Many aspects of your business will be disrupted by the sharing revolution. From collaborative creation to a transformed relationship to consumerism. This shift is happening now:
“I don’t think ownership will fade entirely, but our relationship with the products will change. Over the next few years we will see the mainstreaming of this ownerless mindset.”
Ownership will not be the rule, even for your brand. What does this mean? It means you will have to let go of your principles and embrace new rules of transparency and creation.
One of the most famous and most symbolic big corporations in the world, Coca-Cola knows they cannot ignore what will be the obvious in few years. When envisioning the company in 2020, the sharing mindset is everywhere. In the chapter 5 of their video, they know “listening will not be enough, we will need to really converse”.
This is the future of business.
The Sharing Economy is not a trend happening next to you and appealing to a small group of young users hit by the recession. It’s a shift in your relationship with your users who will never interact as they used to with their favorite brands. Their choices will be led by new values and priorities. Nobody understands better this empowerment and the altered role of the consumer than this movement and the startups driving it.
You can choose to ignore it, thinking established companies with a large audience of customers are not threatened by a revolution concerning shareable items such as cars or apartments. But we have to keep moving to survive.
Same players, same rules, same system, again and again? Come on, if we know one thing, from our professional lives to our personal ones, it is that “there is nothing permanent except change” as proclaimed Heraclitus.
The sharing economy and its values are the big one you do not want to miss. Come learn about it from the ones leading it.
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