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.

Personas: A Key to Better UX

Good UX can be a quick and cost-effective way to improve your bottom line. In a recent post, we offered an overview of UX. In this post, we’ll help you start taking steps to improving UX.

The first step to a better user experience is a better understanding of who your users are – and what they want and need.

Ways to get to know your users

There are multiple ways to find out more about your users, including surveys for specific questions and easily quantifiable results (“Which of these six channels do you use most often to learn about our products?”). One-on-one interviews help you gather candid information and dig deeper (“Tell me what attracts you to our website.”). And focus groups are great for more general questions (“What kind of experiences have you had with our product?”) and when you want to stimulate an open discussion with a number of users.

Consider using personas

You may want to consider using personas to help shape UX. Personas are representations of ideal customers based on your market research and data about existing customers. You may have already done the legwork to craft personas. Personas provide insight into where to focus your marketing time – and they can help guide your UX efforts as well. Elements that help craft a persona include customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals. Personas are valuable because they give you the ability to hone in on the needs of specific users rather than “everyone.”

The benefits of using personas for UX

A recent Blue Fountain Media article lists a number of benefits for using personas.

  1. Detailed personas can create a baseline for how different users will react to your website’s navigation – so you can make sure that the flow is optimized for easy movement through your site.
  2. Personas can help the design team craft an experience geared toward the types of expected visitors to your site. Elements may include space for copy, font size and graphics.
  3. What does your target audience relate to? Personas may assist in answering questions about content that will appeal to and engage your users.
  4. Personas can keep teams on track and on message, focused on the needs of the types of users who will be using the website – and not just on gut instincts.

Example personas

  • Jack owns a small landscaping business. He needs to be able to order replacement parts and have access to resources that will help him safely and properly service his equipment on his own in the field.
  • Patricia is the office manager at a busy medical practice that has two locations. She needs to be able to quickly access internal systems from her desktop, laptop and mobile phone – all with a layer of security.
  • Andrew is a student pursuing an MBA in International Business. He needs to use his mobile phone for personal and school emails and to retrieve course material online. He is also very engaged in social media and needs to have access to the latest social apps.

Thanks for reading! For more details on how to harness the power of UX to increase engagement and revenue, download our exciting new white paper, UX Demystified.