The best way to explain the sharing economy or collaborative consumption is to look at well-known examples such as Airbnb. If you are yet to discover Airbnb, it’s a marketplace where you can ‘rent’ out your room or house while you are away and/or find a place to stay while you are travelling. Beware this site is addictive.
As technology has evolved, there has been significant growth in sharing economy start-ups who use the web to facilitate peer-to-peer exchanges, allowing people to share services and assets directly with those that require them. And most importantly technology has shifted our ability to trust. First to virtually talk to each other, then to pay each other and now to stay in one another’s homes or share our car. So what is the impact of the shared economy?
It has created new markets.
New markets have emerged as technology has faciliated more people to interact with more people; therefore creating enough volume to constitute a business or start a trend. This could be anything from staying in treehouses to sharing your bicycle. Previously seen as too niche, these are now viable markets…and trend shifters.
Social and environmental shifts.
The very nature of a shared ecomomy is based on trust. In the majority of situations people are transacting with virtual acquantainces. The level of trust we know has evolved significantly in-line with technology. The environmental benefits are clear – less consumerism and more sharing. Has this made a measurable impact on the real world economy? Yes, but it is two-fold; with Airbnb where it has a foothold it can effect up to 5% of budget hotels revenue*, but Airbnb is also inspiring more people to travel.
The sharing economy is creating new jobs. By seizing opportunities or gaps in services / products people who were previously unemployed, located remotely or looking for a job change, now have a viable option for income. On the flip-side for consumers, things that were previously unaccessible due to cost, are now a very real possibility.
Here is a great video from Rachel Botsman, a Sydney based thought leader on sharing economies.