Children are taught to share toys and husbands are often encouraged to share their desserts, by people who didn't order them. It feels good to have something that others want and it’s more fun to play if you’re not alone.
While sharing is not a new thing, it just might be the next big thing. Think of it as a way of getting what you want, without having to part with your hard earned cash all at once.
Social networks are driving it and mobile devices and the internet sustain it. Information is the new global currency and we spend it every day.
For our friends across the pond, collaborative consumption, (as it's rapidly becoming known) has sparked a new kind of entrepreneur and with it a host of companies intent on building communities of like minded individuals. Welcome to crowdsourcing.
Food - eating and growing
As you can see from the companies above, this model celebrates access rather than ownership of our hearts desire. It makes sense to use existing local resources. It promotes sustainability. It opens new market opportunities to those willing to embrace change.
So, is this brave new sharing economy possible for every business? I think so, albeit with a little tweaking.
1. If you make a physical product, consider renting it as well as selling it?
In other words, could your product become a service? There are a number of companies moving into this space, particularly in fashion and transportation. If your customer has to make a significant investment to buy your product, then it's sure to speed the decision process and shorten the sales cycle, if they can get what they want at a fraction of the cost, even if it's not theirs to keep.
Car manufacturers know that they can either sell a car once or take that same car and sell it multiple times through a rental agreement. Could your customers become subscribers?
2. If you have a community of people, but no product or service, could you build one?
Crowdsourcing brings large groups together to produce a product or complete a project. Wikipedia is a great example of this, being a volume of information compiled by numerous authors. Reddit and Digg similarly look to the masses for content. Kickstarter is now a well established route to market for many and has repeatedly demonstrated that letting your customers fund your product development, is the very best way to ensure loyalty and engagement. Could the crowd be your supply chain? Deliv think so.
3. If you run a consultancy or deliver services, could you encourage your customers to resell?
Amazon and Ebay now have thriving second markets, which let customers share/sell their used goods to others. Brands are now joining the fun, such as Patagonia who enhance their brand by ensuring that their products are used and reused.
Are there opportunities to lend, swap or resell what you're currently doing so that you build a marketplace for your customers, underpinned by your brand? What if you shared staff training costs by opening your doors to your top customers to have their employees join your company sessions?
With a little thought the possibilities are endless.
I'd love to hear your experiences of sharing and collaboration - good or bad. Feel free to leave me a comment below.