As we’re about 12 months behind the more thriving economies, it’s time we take a look at what the sharing economy really means.
The sharing economy represents the new age of consumerism, as consumers no longer want everything to be mass produced. Instead, they are open to sharing and trusting in strangers to provide services in the same way a company would. The generation of the sharing economy do not want mass production, they want a truly personal and unique experience. They want to share resources and they want access to goods and services on demand.
One of the most successful sharing services, Airbnb, was born out of a personal predicament: the founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia needed money for rent so decided to turn their house into a bed and breakfast for the attendees of the Industrial Designers Society of America, as all the hotel rooms on the conference website were sold out. In the process, the idea of Airbnb was born. Since then, Airbnb has blossomed into a multi-million dollar company. Without mass producing anything, it created a whole new way for people to consume and also to make money.
With today’s global networked economy anyone can share things anywhere. Innovative new business models are emerging as we speak and they reach consumers online in new ways, as consumer trends are increasingly shifting towards sharing.
Just take a look at Liquid‘s bike sharing model or vacation home exchange service Love Home Swap. New businesses are trying to make a real change, almost in a social enterprise type of way, like NeighbourGoods which encourages a safe community where you can save money and resources by sharing stuff with your friends and neighbours. Unsurprisingly, all of the above companies are American.
In the UK, we may be behind the US but things are picking up fast. The UK government has begun putting its weight behind the concept with JANET. The government provided a computer network to allow educational institutions to share collaborative services. Smaller UK companies that have had success using a sharing business model include car sharing service goCarShare, where people looking for a ride can link to those with spare seats, storage sharing site storenextdoor.com and garage sharing site parkatmyhouse.com.
With the sharing economy saving the UK £4.6bn a year, according to a recent survey, the UK may find that this is not just a new consumer and business trend, but another step closer to putting the economy on the mend.
Chris Book is a sharing economy figurehead and the founder of Bardowl, a UK subscription based iOS audiobook streaming app.