The sharing economy is one of the fastest growing industries today. At first glance, it may seem to be limited to the hospitality industry (Airbnb) and mobility (Uber), but the benefits of sharing are becoming far more expansive than we may even realize. Plenty of other industries are poised to be disrupted by this type of societal collaboration, including everything from office space to household items. What will the future look like for the sharing economy? Here’s what we’ve got in mind.
The rise of the social enterprise
Social enterprises are businesses that recognize the value of benefiting society at large (i.e. sharing) in addition to generating profits. Currently, there are more than a hundred million of these purpose-driven companies across the globe – a number that is undoubtedly and rapidly on the rise. Over the past decade or so, a shift has occurred through which consumers are now playing a greater role in the creation, growth and success of businesses. As such, traditional companies will need to find ways to transform their models to participate in the sharing economy if they are to remain competitive.
A greater demand for resources
As our population continues to grow, the demand for basic resources, such as food, water and energy, will subsequently continue to rise. Sharing these resources can provide an ideal solution and one which is much more environmentally friendly. Services such as EatWith, a global community that invites people to dine in homes around the world, and platforms such as LetGo, which facilitates the purchase and sale of used goods, are inspiring others to consider sharing as a way to protect our precious resources.
Enhanced product design
The ability to share has the potential to fundamentally change the way products are designed. Take vehicles as an example. With the ability to access almost any type of vehicle temporarily, a family that may have previously opted for a utilitarian vehicle, like a minivan, might instead go with a more cost-effective and environmentally sound option, like a sedan. When they need to lug the kids around, they can simply borrow a minivan. When they need to haul stuff, they can borrow a pickup truck. These expanding options will likely drive the direction in which product design is headed.
Introduction of ‘Everything as a Service (EaaS)’
The sharing economy has opened the doors for many nontraditional renting arrangements. Just think about the music you rent via streaming services, such as Spotify. In the computing realm, cloud technology has enabled companies to rent everything from software to storage. Users pay only for what they use and needn’t worry about the costs of actual ownership. Many emerging businesses, such as Streetbank, a service through which neighbors can exchange household items, and Vrumi, where residential rooms are rented out as office space, are beginning to take full advantage of the concept that just about anything can be “shareable.”
The sharing economy is still in its relative infancy, with much to be learned and improved on in the future. As technology continues to progress and we become more and more connected as a society, the possibilities of consumer sharing will become virtually limitless.