Learning from the Sharing Economy


Have you rented your spare bedroom to travelers through Airbnb? Shared rides with strangers through Lyft? Hosted a dog while its owners are on vacation through DogVacay? Then you’re participating in the rapidly expanding sharing economy. Wired magazine notes that this is where “businesses provide marketplaces for individuals to rent out their stuff or labor” and says that the sharing economy has “matured from a fringe movement into a legitimate economic force.” It’s a force that’s here to stay – not just economically but culturally.


​A closer look at the paradigm shift

The sharing economy (sometimes called the collaborative economy or peer economy) is changing how we live, play, work, travel, create and consume, says a recent article. The momentum behind the movement is a power shift from large organizations to “distributed networks of individuals and communities.” In other words, power to the people. In ways that would have been unthinkable a decade ago, enterprising individuals are forming networks for creating, collaborating and consuming, enabled by the following factors:

  • Technological innovations that create efficiency and build trust – everything from social media, to online payments, to all manner of mobile and digital tools.
  • A values shift in a digitally connected society that is redefining what ownership and sharing mean.
  • Global economic realities, spurring us to look at wealth and assets through a new lens and measure growth in new ways.
  • Environmental pressures that require us to make much better use of finite resources.

​Key lessons from the sharing economy

Traditional corporations may think this trend among individuals has no bearing on the way they do business. But even if your company is old-school B2B (or B2C!), there are valuable marketing lessons to be learned from the sharing economy.

Ask yourself questions to see where you can be more exciting in your thinking. New collaborative models are revolutionizing or threatening established businesses – depending on whom you ask! Think of how the big hotel chains initially reacted to Airbnb’s soaring popularity – with suspicion and bickering over zoning and taxation. Instead of pushing back against a “disruptor,” the hospitality industry might have taken the opportunity to ask thoughtful questions, like these suggested by Fast Company:

  • What are disruptors doing that we are not?
  • Have we lost our competitive edge and unique value? If so, what are our new differentiators?
  • Are we no longer able to be competitive in this part of our business?
  • Can we partner with the disruptor?
  • How can we define a new, unique value proposition?

Empower customers and create community. Trust is a cornerstone of the sharing economy. Companies like Airbnb build that trust by giving consumers control, transparency – and by building communities. Peer reviewers (read: brand advocates!) help guests feel comfortable staying at a given location and hold hosts accountable for providing a safe, clean and efficient experience. In terms of community, creating communication channels between people with shared interests fosters loyalty.

Step up your UX game. Your website’s UX, or user experience, can mean the difference between an online presence – or an online impact. Airbnb does a great job on UX. To do the same, think about:

  • Visual appeal, with high-quality, large imagery and simple design.
  • A call-to-action that’s easy to find – in Airbnb’s case, the search box is prominent, with no distracting clutter.
  • Professional, compelling copy that is on brand, has a friendly tone and helps capture the flavor of a location in just a few words.
  • Good web form design that makes sign-in a snap.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this overview of the sharing economy. Make sure to check out our new white paper, UX Demystified!, for more information on how to make sure your customers are having an exceptional experience with your website.

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