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Disrupting an age-old industry: How the sharing economy is turning traditional business on its head

Companies such as Airbnb, Coursera, SpotHero and DogVacay are just some examples of great businesses shaping the future of a huge variety of industries, from tourism to education to pet care.
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In the sharing economy, innovators are finding new ways to tackle existing challenges every day. 

Etsy and BlaBlaCar are leading the way when it comes to providing businesses (of all sizes) and consumers alike with more ways of delivering key services, whilst making them more cost-efficient, sustainable and personalised.

In particular, the success of Etsy is an inspirational story; by providing artists – be they painters, designers, furniture makers or up-cyclers – access to an instant customer base, overriding the traditional need for shop space or distributors, it has boosted the success of small businesses on a global scale.

Like Etsy, the team behind Nimber saw a clear opportunity to disrupt an industry that has remained relatively unchanged for decades.

The delivery sector is based predominantly on one concept – the creation of networks and delivery solutions based on those – but we took on the challenge of bringing to market a new concept, one that disrupts this model and offers a better way to send, delivering greater convenience, better value-for-money and forging connections between real people – rather than impersonal (and often inefficient) companies – along the way. 

Shaping, and fundamentally changing, the future of this industry was a huge task to take on, but we knew that with Nimber we had something special.

From challenge to concept

Nimber’s concept revolves around making use of the spare transport capacity which exists as a result of the journeys we all make every day. We identified the huge potential to tap into these journeys and create a socially-driven delivery model which connects people with people, putting users directly in control of the process by allowing them to post items on our platform and negotiate the price they’re willing to pay with someone in our community who is willing to deliver it.

Add to this the greater convenience the concept brings (with no need to package items, no need to wait in a queue at the Post Office, or stay in for delivery companies), as well as the clear sustainability benefits which come from being able to manage deliveries without drawing on additional transport resources, and the business case is clear.   

Nimber launched in Norway over two years ago. One of the initial challenges we faced was building sufficient liquidity into our marketplace, both supply and demand, to create an ubiquitous and consistent service.

Building a two-sided marketplace like Nimber requires a delicate balance and presents its own unique challenges; there needs to be a symmetry in supply versus demand – if one side outweighs the other it risks resulting in unsatisfactory experiences for first time users who, for example, do not receive any offers for delivery on an item they have listed on the platform.

It’s a challenge we face once again, with our recent UK launch, however the lessons we have learnt in Norway enable us to better understand what our community needs and how best to help them succeed.

Disruption to demand

A disruptive business is one that creates the alternative to that which already exists. In our case, that alternative was creating a community of real people – all prepared to deliver items for others – alongside developing a supply of items to match this demand.

Helping people to understand that they themselves can circumnavigate a traditional approach to services they regularly use, such as  sending and delivering items where they have only dealt with businesses before, is a tricky process and doing it effectively has been paramount to our success so far.

We invested heavily right from the start in creating our unique, easy-to-use platform and we continue to invest in supporting it, enhancing it and driving word-of-mouth around it to ensure the community flourishes.

Social media, particularly Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, has played an integral part in building our community and establishing trust among potential community members. We encourage our community to share their experiences of Nimber, such as the journeys they have made as bringers and their delivery successes as senders.

Giving them a forum in which to share these stories has created an enormous amount of goodwill for, and a sense of shared ownership of, the brand.

Most importantly, when a new community member first uses us, they come back again and again – something that is reflected in our consistently high service ratings.

So far, we’ve built a community of over 40,000 ‘bringers and senders’, using the service to ship hundreds of items every week, from bikes to guitars, to beds and sofas and even the odd Labrador!

Going the distance – what’s next for delivery?

The future of the sector is very simple; use the best possible way to get something from A to B. 

At times that may not be in a truck or via a transport hub, but simply through everyday people making everyday journeys. We believe that people and community are central to the future of this sector – like many others – and will become even more important in years to come.

As for the future of ‘disruptive business’, it is natural for us to constantly question how we do things, and how we can continually fuel progress. If businesses don’t keep on looking for viable models for the future – whatever the sector they’re operating in – they will fall behind. 

By disrupting services and sectors we can create new opportunities and provide better outcomes for the end users. 

Without innovation we can’t progress as a society, we can’t create opportunities for new services and we’ll hold back innovation for those services that depend on it in order to thrive. 

Our community can rest assured that we’ll continue to question, continue to innovate and continue to disrupt for the sake of better business.

Ari Kestin is the CEO of Nimber

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