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© 2016 by The Digital Consumer.

  • Mark Ghibril

Do you have the Key Digital Features for your Sharing Economy Platform?


First I hope you had a fantastic holiday and a great start to 2017! All the rush to buy presents, book a holiday, attend one (or more) new year events is now behind us and we hopefully are all looking forward to a new year!

Reflecting back on December where I and my friends were buying things from EBay, checking Airbnb for places to rent, using Uber to go from one place to another and checking a new App called Heaps that shows you available new year parties to attend, it dawned on me that we, the digital consumers, are fully immersed in the so-known "shared economy" (also known as "collaborative economy"). 

So I thought in this blog I will share very briefly what is the Sharing Economy (if you don't know yet), what are the supporters claiming and the critics denouncing and I will concentrate on what are the key digital aspects that entrepreneurs, companies and you all can take into considerations for your sharing economy platforms.

1- What is a Sharing Economy?

In simple terms, a sharing economy allows us, as individuals, groups or enterprises, either through peer-to-peer, on-demand or collaborative access, to create business models and monetise from available or under-utilised resources such as skills, goods and services. The key driver of sharing economy business is the digital platforms that provides personalised and real-time capacity with the ability for consumers to connect or book that capacity. 

The current most utilised categories in the sharing economy are: 

1- Peer-to-peer accommodation: Renting or sharing unused space

2- Peer-to-peer transportation: Renting or sharing unused transportation

3- On-Demand Household services: Freelance access to household tasks

4- On-Demand Professional Services: Freelance access to business skills

5- Collaborative Financing: Peer-to-peer or Crowd-funding investment, lending or borrowing. 

Market research is showing that the current revenues created within the sharing economy is in excess €6bn in 2016.

2- What are the Pro's & Con's currently for the sharing Economy?

The appeal of the sharing economy is that it benefits all stakeholders involved in it. It increases convenience of access to products, goods and services, increase the utilisation of unused resources, increase employment, consumerisation and empowerment of ordinary people (or what some call "micro-entrepreneurship"). 

The sharing economy relies heavily on the trust and sense of community that we all are now feeling more confident about in the digital age and our willingness to try new innovation, less known "brands" and experience physical goods based on their virtual status. 

The current criticism is that currently the economic contribution is mainly driven for self-interest (self cover individuals or companies) rather than sharing as such. In addition, the current policies and regulations do not cater for a sharing economy, causing the exploitation of such policies to the disadvantage of the consumer as well as the employee. 

I will not dive in this blog on what is to be done to improve or eliminate the con's but I just want to mention that in my point of view, the sharing economy is deeply routed now in our social and economical life and this trend will change the way we live so we just need to work together to make it benefit both society and the enterprise. 

3- What are the key Digital features for your sharing economy platform?

In my point of view, any sharing economy platform should ensure to unlock the best user experience for the Digital consumers (check my previous blog for details on digital consumer user segments) to allow it to succeed. With the right digital features, the sharing economy platform can scale and enhance economic impact much more effectively. For this, you should ensure you carefully consider and implement the following key digital features:

1- Accessability: In a sharing economy, digital consumers don't want to or even can't own a product, service or asset for various reasons such as price, convenience or even availability. Therefore, your platform has to provide personalised, easy and fully transparent access to the information and benefits of your resources, products or service. You need to revolutionise the ways the digital consumer can access your platform, your data and your business model without the need to have full ownership. This can be done by designing your information access based on scenarios or consumer personas. Digital consumers will come to you to resolve a problem or a need not for the product it self (e.g. Consumers don't need a drill. They need a hole in their wall). 

2- Connectivity: In a sharing economy, digital consumers want to exchange, trade, or share with others directly and not through various levels of intermediaries (either people or processes). Therefore, your platform has to provide direct connectivity to the resources required without the need of over engineered workflows that ultimately hinder direct connectivity to the resource. This can be done by making your platform the single direct access to the relevant resources and ensure any integrations to intermediaries are seamless to the consumer; I.e. Consumers will solely interaction with your platform for their needs. 

3- Simplicity: In a sharing economy, digital consumers' expectation is frustration free, simple and easy experience in interacting and comprehending the platform and the resources on offer. Therefore, your platform has to provide a simplistic, easy to interact user experience and journey from demand to purchase. This can be achieved ensuring there is no friction from the platform to make it secure, easy and fast where all the required information about the resources are clear to comprehend including costs and rules and instantaneous process from viewing to purchasing. 

4- Empowerment: In a sharing economy, it is all about forming communities, allowing the digital consumers to interact and collaborate as well as provide input and feedback to your resources, to their peers as well as to the wider community. Therefore, your platform should either provide and facilitate the community creation and management or has a direct feed into another system that is managed by another independent entity. You can do that by providing forums, live chat and/or messaging features to build trust with your brand, with other peers and with the sharing economy as a whole.

The above key digital features if applied appropriately will translate into a powerful digital platform that can support the positive impact of the sharing economy. 

In the next 100 days, if you are already immersed and part of the sharing economy, - review your platform and check if the above features are already integrated

  • If yes, fantastic, keep it going! 

  • If not, analyze which feature is most priority for your resource type and implement it. 

  • If you are not yet part of the sharing economy and want to be part of it, 

  • ensure to build your platform with the above key features. 

  • One key aspect as a new starter, you have to be a role model, either as a individual or as an enterprise and ensure you utilize the sharing economy yourself or within your enterprise before you use it for the wider community.

#DigitalEcosystem #sharing #economy #Digital