sharingnewbuying 140302103446 phpapp02 95 slide 4 638 The Emerging Collaborative Economy: An Opportunity for Small BusinessA recent Conan O’Brien bit with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube featured the ride sharing app Lyft, and with more than 8-million views, unwittingly put the spotlight on what has become known as the collaborative economy. As I wrote last year in a piece on crowdsourcing and the collaborative economy, this is a growing trend whereby

consumers pool their resources in order to benefit everyone in a group, while at the same time, promoting sustainability.

Now, a newly released report from Crowd Companies and Vision Critical is taking a long, hard look at the collaborative economy and what it means for businesses in the relatively near future. The report, Sharing is the New Buying, surveyed more than 90,000 participants in the collaborative economy, and studied their habits and opinions, and the results are quite eye opening, particularly for businesses looking to adapt and grow over the next few years. It is clear that the concept of sharing, and the collaborative economy, has it’s roots in a new world dominated by social, local, and mobile (SoLoMo).

In breaking down what this really is, the report says:

Just as social media enabled peer-to-peer sharing
of content, the technologies of the collaborative economy now enables
peer-to-peer sharing of goods, services, transportation, space and
money at a speed and scale that were unimaginable a decade ago.

In this world, the people formerly called “consumers” are also funders,
producers, sellers and distributors. Their stories matter to big brands,
because this movement means that people can get what they need from
each other—rather than buying from you.

In other words, “the crowd is becoming a company unto itself.” As individuals, we are seeking out more sustainable and satisfying opportunities, while at the same time looking to save money. Platforms that are hallmarks of this new economy include more well known sites like Etsy, eBay, Craigslist, Kiva, and Kickstarter, as well as newer apps and opportunities like Rent the Runway, Lyft, Uber, and Airbnb. In most cases, traditional businesses are left out in the cold, while apps and the internet become the new middle man, connecting individuals in some sort of exchange of goods or services. This economy also empowers entrepreneurs and hobbyists, adding a greater number of individuals to the small business ranks.

The report breaks individuals down into three categories, based on their level of participation, or lack thereof. An increasingly shrinking majority of us (61% of Americans) are still in a category the report calls “non-sharers,” not yet having dipped into this realm. A smaller portion (23%) are “re-sharers,” using some of the more popular and more established services like eBay and Craigslist. But then there is a smaller, but rapidly emerging group (16%) known as “neo-sharers.” These are the people who are early adopters of sites like Etsy, Lyft, and Kickstarter, engaging in more niche forms of collaboration.

At the core of this emerging trend is what I call the re-socialization of daily life. Relationships are key. Individuals are driving the economy on social media, not business or marketers. Platforms that were developed for us to be social were co-opted by businesses, and are now being reclaimed by users, even for the purposes of commerce and the exchange of goods and services. Sharing and collaboration are becoming mainstream, and may soon be the norm for many of us. We see this in the subtle shift from purchasing (or bartering for) new goods online to purchasing used, or perhaps handmade, goods, on sites as divergent as Craigslist, eBay, Etsy, and even Facebook or Twitter. It allows us to maximize resources for the common good in a somewhat iffy economy, all the while waving the banner of sustainability. I even see this locally in the increasing demand for shared office space, known as coworking.

Businesses that produce and sell goods and services should think about what this means to them. As more of us are participating in the collaborative economy, that means a loss of some sort of revenue for many business categories. Are there ways our businesses can become a part of the collaborative economy, and capitalize on this trend? For instance, Walgreens has partnered with TaskRabbit to deliver prescriptions to customers. This is just one example, and the winners will be those businesses who think creatively about how they can better serve their public through collaboration, especially as the number of those participating in the collaborative economy could double in the next 12 months.

The idea of sharing corresponds closely with a general movement taking place nationwide that values sustainability, community, and putting others first.

But if we’re sharing and collaborating, rather than working with big name, tried and true companies and services, are we happy? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” The report indicates that:

91% of sharers would recommend the last sharing service they used to a friend or colleague.

Clearly, the good experiences far outweigh the bad.

As for our businesses and how we can participate, the report offers up four major opportunities which we need to consider:

  1. Offer “lifestyle as a service” to younger and more affluent markets.
  2. Bring new marketplace business models to opportunity-rich urban areas.
  3. Drive sharing with social media marketing.
  4. Market the direct benefits of sharing services.

So it’s our turn to find the right opportunities for our businesses. Take a look at existing sharing and neo-sharing types of services and see which ones might be a good fit for you, either as they are currently set-up, or with some sort of modification or customization. In a social/local/mobile (SoLoMo) economy, sharing and collaboration are an important part of how we re-tool our business models.

Here is a copy of the SlideShare of the report as prepared by Jeremiah Owyang, Alexandra Samuel, and Andrew Grenville, so that you can dig deeper and find opportunities for you and your business.

Sharing is the New Buying: How to Win in the Collaborative Economy from Jeremiah Owyang

How are you preparing to participate in the collaborative economy, both as an individual and with your business?