People power the sharing economy

TIME magazine has named ‘collaborative consumption’ one of the 10 ideas that will change the world. And we can’t help but agree.

The 20th century has been all about ownership and hyper consumption – having bigger houses, faster cars and shinier watches. But a new wave of networked consumers are coming through, who are looking at more sustainable ways for the future – and their wallets. And it’s the younger generation leading the way. Tired of the ownership era, young, savvy individuals are looking to collaborative consumption.

Collaborative consumption explained

If you haven’t come across it yet, the term collaborative consumption first coined by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers can be defined as sharing, swapping, trading, renting, and bartering goods and services with others as opposed to ownership. This is powered through network technologies on a scale and in ways never previously possible. This new green trend is disrupting outdated business models, and reinventing what we consume as well as how we consume it.

This is all evident in the many examples from marketplaces such as eBay, to car sharing services (GoGet), peer-to-peer accommodation (AirBnb), or even social lending (Zopa). The basic characteristics of these sharing services is that they extract value out of ‘stuff’ we already have.

Where once you needed to be lucky enough to have close friends or neighbours to borrow off to make sharing possible, now the internet and social networks allows you to connect with a vast network of individuals willing to lend or rent goods or services not in use. Technology and online communities it would seem, are allowing these old market behaviours to be reinvented on a scale never previously possible.

Paradigm shift from the 20th to the 21st century

How consumers are changing – from hyper consumption to collaborative consumption.

At some stage we will look back at the 20th century and wonder why we ever owned so much stuff. But who knew that out of all this increased ownership we could develop a more sustainable mindset?

Post GFC we have seen many changes to economic conditions. To unemployment of young adults, to underemployment and increasing cost pressures. Is it any wonder that it’s no longer just the industrialised world that’s concerned about the idle time of fixed assets? Savvy consumers are now realising their belongings have idle time too. From houses that sit empty while their owners take holidays, to cars which stay parked in garages while their owners ride bikes.

Ultimately, the new empowered sharing economy comes back to the notion of living in a village, borrowing off your neighbours, instead of just being in a suburb. So not only does it save the borrower, it lightens the load of the high fixed costs to the owner. And by cutting the need to purchase items you will only sometimes use, collaborative consumption reduces pollution and landfill. Making it a sustainable movement and one that business can embrace too.

From a business point of view

Collaborative consumption is a great trend for start-ups to invest and start innovating in. Now is the perfect time to build the next GoGet or AirBnb. By leveraging emerging technologies and social networking tools you can create an online network that connects to a ‘real world’ network. And one in which consumers are embracing more and more. The collaborative consumption trend isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

But as an established business you can save resources (i.e. money) and promote sustainability in your business and the lean & green way. Some examples to help you on your way include:

  • Instead of paying for cabs you can sign up for GoGet, Flexicar, or CarNextDoor.
  • Use Zilch to claim or give away free things, including furniture, office equipment and electronics.
  • AirBnb or couchsurfing to save on accommodation for your next business trip.
  • Go to OpenShed to list or rent items from your collections, cupboards or sheds.
  • Moving offices? Use MeeMeep to move all your ‘stuff’ including office equipment and furniture.
  • Find or rent storage, office, parking, rural or commercial spaces with SpaceOut.
  • Use Zopa for peer-to-peer financing.
  • Search Freecycle or FriendswithThings to find or contribute reusable items in your community.

Other examples of collaborative consumption include landshare, mamabake, and parkatmyhouse.

This list is by no means exhaustive. If you have any more examples we haven’t mentioned share them in the comments below. Otherwise immerse yourself in the sharing economy and start reaping the benefits – whether it’s borrowing a tool off a neighbour or renting out unoccupied space. By doing so you’re creating a sustainable workplace. This can be through saving emissions, saving money and time, or increasing utilisation of your own assets… you can ensure your business makes a difference and contributes to the growth of collaborative consumption.

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Written by

A marketing professional with experience in the technology, research, and information services industries. Lyndal is fascinated by the intersection of communications, technology and the web and how this has transformed modern marketing efforts.