As more and more startups like Airbnb, Etsy and Kickstarter crowd into the space of the collaborative economy, big brands are starting to get in on the action, too. Alexandra Samuel writes about the growing participation in a collaborative economy on HBR:
As more and more startups like Airbnb, Etsy and Kickstarter crowd into the space of the collaborative economy, big brands are starting to get in on the action, too. Staples sells products developed on Quirky; Avis has acquired Zipcar; Walgreens has partnered with TaskRabbit for delivery.
And those ventures are likely to be just the beginning, given how many people are already participating in the collaborative economy, and how much that’s likely to grow over the next year. There are now 113 million sharers in the US, the UK and Canada: 40% of the adult population. Those figures come from a survey of 90,112 people that we conducted for Sharing is the New Buying, a just-released report that I co-authored with Jeremiah Owyang of Crowd Companies and my Vision Critical colleague Andrew Grenville.
While the most established and widespread form of sharing consists of buying and selling pre-owned goods on sites like eBay and Craigslist, our survey revealed that a quarter of the population is now using the most recent generation of sharing services. These include peer-to-peer transportation and housing services like Uber and Airbnb, crowdfunding services like Kickstarter, product rental services like Rent the Runway, custom craft shops like Etsy, and task sites such as elance and Taskrabbit. Participation in every one of these emergent categories is poised to double within the next year.
No wonder big brands want in on the action: the growth of the collaborative economy promises to disrupt the conventional marketplace, as customers buy from one another — instead of from them.
But for those companies, engaging with this nascent market must go beyond latching onto a few hot collaborative startups by buying them or partnering with them. Established companies must grasp the core drivers behind this new economy, and understand how those drivers fit into their already established models. These core drivers are:
Less buying, more sharing. Big brands need to stop measuring success in terms of units sold, and think in terms of units used. The collaborative economy is shifting us from a consumerist economy to one in which people buy less because they’re sharing more. Instead of five families buying five cars, five families can share the equivalent of one car (using a combination of loaner vehicles and transportation-on-demand), reducing the overall number of products purchased. (Not incidentally, this also reduces the environmental footprint of all that car manufacturing.)
Image by spDuchamp, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.