Harvard Business Review’s experts say that the sharing economy isn’t about sharing anything – it’s about people accessing more and more things instead.
Say hello to the Access Economy: “Sharing is a form of social exchange that takes place among people known to each other, without any profit. Sharing is an established practice, and dominates particular aspects of our life, such as within the family. But the sharing economy isn’t really a ‘sharing’ economy at all; it’s an access economy.”
That’s the view of Giana Eckhardt and Fleura Bardhi at Harvard Business Review. The pair believe that when a business or service provider is an intermediary between consumers (who actually don’t know each other) there’s no sharing involved at all. “Consumers are paying to access someone else’s goods or services for a particular period of time. It is an economic exchange, and consumers are after utilitarian, rather than social, value,” they explain.
Related: 5 Smart cost-effective marketing moves that will build your business in a tight economy
MIT Sloan Management Review’s contributors add that instead of buying and owning products, consumers are increasingly interested in leasing and sharing them. “Companies can benefit from the trend toward ‘collaborative consumption’ through creative new approaches to defining and distributing their offerings,” they say. If you’re managing your company in a silo, it’s best you start looking into how you can collaborate with other businesses to grow your revenues in this new ‘team-effort’ business world.
Mastercard on the sharing economy
Payments specialist, Mastercard recently released a white paper on the state of the sharing economy, what the future holds in terms of customer expectations because of ‘sharing’, and how companies can respond in the face of global collaboration between businesses.
“The sharing economy is a growing, powerful entity that’s accelerating at a significant rate,” the white paper says. “It’s already contributed to some of the most impactful innovations the world has seen in the last few years, and as it continues to grow it will remain an influential component of the global economy.”
Mastercard’s research shows that by 2022, more sharing platforms will continue to proliferate, growing and segmenting the business world with new innovation.
“Winners will emerge to dominate, consolidate and broaden their service offerings, leaving incumbents to respond, in turn creating new ventures. As part of this, sharing will penetrate the mass market, with major sharing platforms growing to equal their traditional market equivalents. It will also spread into new sectors, including, insurance, utilities, health and social care,” the report expounds.
Related: Why the ‘green economy’ offers gold for your small business
If you’re wondering where you should immediately focus to ensure your company remains relevant to consumers in a shared world, ask yourself the following two questions:
1. How are you offering access to value?
Mastercard says:“As new ways to access goods and services emerge, greater value will be delivered to consumers and organisations alike. This access will be driven by technology, which unlocks new value through increasing use and reducing cost of access. As access improves, so the sharing market broadens and deepens. Examples of this include Blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).”
2. How are you improving trust and transparency?
Mastercard says:“Trust remains the critical enabler of the sharing economy, and will naturally grow as the sector expands and people become more comfortable with the wide range of products and services that the sharing economy captures more revenue.
Facebook is the world’s most popular media owner, but the company creates none of its own content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer on the planet holds none of its own inventory. Airbnb, the world’s largest supplier of accommodation owns none of its own hotels. Do you have a plan to compete with these sorts of companies?