A decade ago, if you had described an economy in which people willingly let strangers rent rooms in their homes or pick up strangers with their cars, people would have thought you were mad. Who would willingly share their car or home resources to provide a service to perfect strangers? A lot of people, it turns out.
Today, Airbnb and Uber together have a market cap of $103 billion. It didn’t happen overnight, however. Airbnb launched three times and in 2008 only had two customers. Uber at first cost more than twice the amount of a traditional cab. However, Both have had to face changing regulations from different cities and countries.
Even in the face of such obstacles, the sharing economy will continue to evolve and grow in the near future, with the expectation of reaching $40.2 billion by 2022. It will do this in two major ways: First, by expanding across different industries beyond hiring, video & music streaming, housing, transportation
The Expansion of the Sharing Economy to More Industries
Airbnb and Uber are part of what is known today as the sharing economy, or the idea that under-utilized resources or skills should be shared with those who find them valuable. Most of these services today, in the digital age, are found via an online platform which allows the two parties to connect.
The sharing economy already extends well beyond cars and homes, however. Think of any under-utilized resource – whether physical space, appliances or tools, used clothes or furniture, and even money. There’s an online sharing application somewhere for it. For example, WeWork is one of the most prominent of the many coworking spaces available, with an estimated value of around $40 billion.
It allows solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, freelancers and digital nomads to rent office or desk space in many cities all over the world. Freelancing sites such as Upwork, TaskRabbit, and Fiverr enable those with under-utilized skills to share them with those who need them. Of course, Ebay and Amazon are online marketplaces where consumers can sell used or new goods to other peers, with the added advantage of offering delivery straight to consumers’ homes.
Enhancing The Users’ Experience
The sharing economy has even hit the fashion industry, with startups like Tulerie that allow consumers to rent high-end clothes and accessories from one another via their rental platform and Rebag, which allows consumers to return their new handbags within six months for up to 70% of the price. After that, Many of these applications offer a great customer experience as well. With the option to use personalized stylists to help you choose your outfit and accessories.
As the sharing economy expands into more and more industries, companies will need to stand out in order to compete. They will need to have the ability to tap into loyal communities and engage with members who recommend products and share their knowledge and experiences with their friends. In this economy, social media integration, user-generated content, and strong online communities will become invaluable.
Welcome to the Knowledge Sharing Economy
Let’s consider for a moment a different space for the sharing economy: the consumer information or knowledge sharing industry. Imagine a world where masses of consumers could freely share their information and knowledge of products, experiences, articles and life hacks with their friends and family. Now also imagine that these consumers are each encouraged to discuss this information with their trusted social circles in an online digital world of a close-knit community. Discussions with your trusted social circles are worth far more than reading strangers’ reviews which could be found on most retailers’ online sites.
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In other words, If you think the idea of a knowledge sharing economy is a bit crazy. Just remember a time when people scoffed at sharing their houses and cars with strangers.