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5 Lessons from the Sharing Economy

The sharing economy, simply put, is the phenomenon where people are increasingly willing to share their home, car, clothing, goods, services—almost anything—online. It’s having a major disruptive influence on the way business works today.  New consumer-driven businesses are cropping up quickly and taking a significant share of revenue from traditional counterparts. Just look at the hotel industry—it’s taking a hit from Airbnb. Sharing sites like Peerby are driving a whole new commerce engine where people share anything from tools to evening dresses. And in the transportation industry, change is happening fast with companies like Uber and Lyft crowdsourcing public transportation in cities around the world.  

The sharing economy has allowed new multi-million dollar businesses to grow seemingly overnight. So, how can traditional businesses leverage the sharing trend? Here are five lessons you can use to lean into—and learn from—the new sharing economy.

1. Co-create  Working in a collaborative way with customers can bring in outside perspectives and fresh ideas. One of my favorite examples is the Starbucks program where customers can nominate a new coffee.  This is a great example of using crowdsourcing to drive product innovation while encouraging customer participation. Tech companies often use open-source platforms to drive innovation and participation. Co-creation is a powerful brand tool in the sharing economy. When consumers become co-creators in a brand experience, they are more likely to buy into the brand.

2. Build Trust  Trust is the currency of the sharing economy.  Use customer reviews and community-building strategies to develop authority and trust with your customers. The sharing economy requires people to put their trust in complete strangers. Marketers can leverage social proof and peer reviews to build trust and loyalty with customers at a grass roots level.

3. Integrate Social  Social integration is becoming the most important element of brand discovery and engagement.   Building an enaged network of brand advocates takes work.   Make every brand experience a social one where customers can engage, share, communicate.

4. Build A Great Website. Take a few pointers from the best sharing economy websites.    Peer reviews, simplified navigation, local information, and the use of maps, imagery and video make these sites engaging experiences. Easy access to products and service is the hallmark of the sharing economy. Corporate websites tend to be overly complex and difficult to use.  The best brands are focusing on delivering value instead of just selling.   

5. Microtarget Communities The sharing economy is hyper-local; it builds business through community awareness. Larger companies often don’t spend time on the type of community engagement that is the hallmark of sharing economy brands. Take the time to seed your brand story in your neighborhood and develop brand-building campaigns in targeted communities.

The sharing economy is a huge threat to many businesses today. But it also presents a tremendous opportunity for leaders and visionary companies who are ready to build new innovative business models that lean into this new economy.  How are you tapping into the sharing economy? Start by sharing your story here.