Statistics and expert opinions alike support the idea that the collaborative economy has the potential to be exceptionally profitable for vendors and buyers alike. And, because profits are so closely linked to an organization’s innovation efforts, it’s imperative that businesses keep a focused ear to the ground as new data and trends surface about the expanding peer-to-peer marketplace.

An Emerging Goldmine

According to MIT Sloan Expert Jaime Contreras, the collaborative economy is far more than just a rapidly growing, nouveau approach to business; it could actually turn out to be a billion-dollar cash cow. A 110-billion-dollar cash cow, to be exact. From MITS:

“Today the sharing economy — the peer-to-peer exchange of goods and services — is being called next big trend in social commerce, and represents what some analysts say is a potential $110 billion market. Internet technology and access to information allow us to share our belongings with others more easily than ever before and wring value out of stuff we already own. That, coupled with many people’s desire to lead greener, less consumptive lives, is driving this trend.”

Tapping into your company’s potential to participate in the sharing economy will likely prove to be a critical component of business strategy going forward; it’s yet another distinguishing factor between sustainable growth and market irrelevance.

The Proof is in the Purpose

With innovation consistently top-of-mind for business leaders everywhere, identifying where products and services fit into a collaborative economy is a challenge that must be faced with expenditures in mind, risks vetted, and a close look at industry trends. Says James Bradfield Moody, Founder and CEO of Tushare:

“Collaborative consumption and the sharing economy is now where social media was a few years ago and is fast growing. Time named collaborative consumption one of the ’10 Ideas that will change the world’. A World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders study points to projections suggesting the ‘sharing’ and ‘rental’ economies will generate $US3.5 billion in revenue in 2013, and grow to as big as $US110 billion over the next few years, demonstrating that a collaborative economy can transform the way we live, work and consume.

Although financial and environmental factors are two key pillars of the sharing economy, happiness and a genuine intent of spreading joy is linked strongly to the growth of sharing platforms. In a master’s research project more than 84% of the Dutch respondents expressed interest in participating in collaborative consumption of some sort…Businesses can learn from the sharing economy [through its] strong ability to deliver purpose. For businesses and marketers, the opportunity exists to embrace the sharing economy’s model’s pillars – cost, environment and happiness, as change agents to create a sense of value and build brand equity amongst consumers. Brands that successfully sell their purpose, rather than their services, have much more potential to success in driving loyalty and building community over the long term. And a clear and compelling purpose has the potential to give a brand the opportunity to more effectively connect with its core audience and market.”