The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.
As Uber, Amazon, Deliveroo and other disruptive companies encourage peer to peer services, it seems the whole market place is experiencing a flurry of start ups that will disrupt the way we receive services as consumers. Suzy Bashford discusses how collaborative consumerism could be here to stay. The Drum Network members discuss: are we oversharing?
The sharing economy has created new and exciting ways to innovate, and launched a culture of micro-entrenprenarialship that may not exist without Airbnb and Uber taking the leap and bringing something different to market.
Sharing a hairy bar of soap with a stranger (as an example) may well be going too far. But is sharing a bicycle, a car, a drive way, a kitchen table, a pet going too far? I think not. I think a shared economy is giving more control to consumers, giving them the opportunity to be flexible in how committed they are to a brand or service, and what level of investment they choose to spend; airbnb presents a scaled price for bed for the night, we know Uber is cheaper than a London Black Cab, Boris Bikes can be hired by anyone and aren’t a target for thieves, and We Work encourages founders of startups to network, collaborate and innovate with like-minded people under the same roof.
Like anything there’s an element of risk involved, whether you’re a consumer, a partner, employee or investor but we are ever cautious in our older age. We mustn’t forget that the next generation (Z) of consumers are on they way up, and they are practically being raised on sharing intimate pictures, videos and stories online without appearing too concerned about the consequences – I certainly I prefer our interpretation of ‘sharing' to theirs.
Back to business, I’ve said it before but it’s never been more exciting to be a consumer!
While the peer-to-peer model is nothing new, the growth and popularity of companies capitalising on the ‘shareconomy’ across verticals show that it’s a model proving its worth, not only in monetary gains but in public opinion. I think brands will need to be increasingly mindful of the emotive affinity consumers will have toward a brand empowering the everyday man and social collectivity. It would be naïve to think this will be a business model limited to a subset of industries; it’s already evidenced by the tremendous growth seen in start-ups promoting the likes of peer-to-peer car rental, skills-sharing and even Wi-Fi exchange. When the competition is endorsing ethics over profits, how will the big, money-making brands stand up? Over the next 10 years it will be interesting to see how this evolves, if they can co-exist and whether collaborative consumption is a sustainable business model. My cynical side knows that while sharing is good, someone always gets greedy.
Ultimately, the game-changing peer to peer businesses that will stand the test of time and disrupt industries are the ones that have been founded with the complete understanding of a real-life problem. By leveraging their awareness of their customer’s challenge(s), and bringing their product to market as quickly as possible, they succeed in changing consumers experience of the problem for the better.
Putting customer’s needs at the heart of their business model lets them do this, rather than simply forging ahead creating ‘Airbnb for Cat Owners’ because they’re jumping on the bandwagon of a digital zeitgeist.
Brands that wish to capitalise on the sharing economy should embrace the power of human centred design / service design / user experience design (call it what you wish to) at a strategic level, and use it to inform their business models to find where the innovative products and services truly lie. Only then will they be in a position to disrupt markets and create the kind of services that are ingrained into our collective way of life.
Eve Poole hits the nail on the head here. Unless the service offers marked advantages to consumers (or B2B buyers - a massively under-tapped market in the sharing economy) then it is going to struggle to get traction. Convenience trumps conscience.
That said, the sharing economy still has a lot of legs and the growing maturity of integrators in payment, delivery, user vetting and management will no doubt unlock a wider range of applications than we currently have.
Collaborative consumption isn’t new. We’re taught to share almost before we can walk and it’s our innate ability to work together as human beings, be it to find food or shelter etc. that has enabled us to survive. Knowing who to trust (another skill we learn very early on) plays a vital role in our ability to collaborate and this is where the sharing economy has excelled, as it puts choice and trust back in the hands of the consumer.
What’s interesting for us is the lesson big brands will take from this and how they’ll respond. Consumers have always been willing to share, whether it is giving a phone number to enter a competition or details on shopping habits in return for rewards but the emergence of the sharing economy has upped the ante. Money off this or a chance to win that is no longer compelling; today’s consumers want a stake in brands they’re passionate about and this is where the opportunity is.
Big brands do not have to disrupt their entire business model, but they do need to start viewing consumers at eye level as equals, as crucial to the growth of their business as anyone within the organisation. This means inviting, listening to and acting on feedback. Incorporating consumers into the marketing teams to power word of mouth and ultimately, stop resisting and start embracing a collaborative approach to marketing.
10 years ago we told brands to digitise or die. Today brands must collaborate.
The share based economy is here to stay. Whilst we may have hit 'Peak Uber', the benefits of sharing for consumers is obvious (in the appropriate sectors). Brands better get used to this otherwise they risk waking up being disrupted to the extent that Uber and Air BnB has inflicted upon the status quo.
But we must be mindful that not every 'Uber for-x' will strike it rich. To succeed on an unprecedented level, you need scale. To be a real useful utility to consumers you need supply and you need plenty of demand to drive that supply. And for this to happen at scale you need capital.
There is a play for established brands to start embracing the share economy (where it makes sense). They have the infrastructure, customer demand and resource to make it scale. But you can't just dip your toe in. For everyone else, it is likely to be a flash in the pan and an utter fad. If you're thinking of launching the next 'Uber For....', you might like these .
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