The biggest shift in the business landscape since the Internet continues to grow--and established, traditional companies need to act soon in order to compete. That's one of the key findings in The New Rules of the Collaborative Economy, a report I co-authored with tech researcher Alexandra Samuel, released today. The report is an update to Sharing is the New Buying, a 2014 report that, for the first time ever, mapped the prevalence of the collaborative economy and its impact on the business world.
What is the collaborative economy?
The collaborative economy is an economic movement where common technologies enable people to get the goods and services they need from each other, peer to peer, instead of buying from established corporations.
You don't have to look very far to see how disruptive the collaborative economy has become. Today, the world's largest hospitality brand--Airbnb--owns not a single room or hotel and is worth $25 billion. Uber, valued at over $50 billion, is the world's largest taxi service--and it doesn't own a single vehicle. Barely four years old, the online grocery shopping service Instacart is already worth $2 billion.
Overall, the collaborative economy has produced 17 billion-dollar companies and 10 so-called unicorns. Collectively, sharing startups have already received $15 billion in funding--surpassing the social media space that spurred giants like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
How big is the collaborative economy?
In one word: massive. We used Vision Critical's customer intelligence platform and discovered that at least one in five customers now chooses sharing as their initial preferred option. The past year alone has seen an impressive growth in the collaborative economy. In North America, participation in this space has grown by 25 percent. More than 110 million people in the U.S. and Canada have participated in some form of sharing in the past year.
The collaborative economy encompases many different categories and different forms of sharing. Last year, we looked at 11 categories; this time, we explored 13, adding online learning and Bitcoin to the list. It's worth noting that all categories that we looked at this year have seen some growth in participation--reiterating the impressive growth of this movement.
The following inforgraphic is a portion of the full report, which you can download at no cost.
Is sharing here to stay?
To determine the staying power of the collaborative economy, we asked people who stopped using sharing services in the past 12 months why they did so. In every category of sharing, about 2 to 6 percent of sharers report skipping that form of sharing in the past 12 months even though they had previously tried it, so we asked them why. Is it due to disenchantment with the sharing movement?
What we found is that people who stopped sharing in a certain category are doing so not because of dissatisfaction but because of experimentation. Indeed, 70 percent of people that have used a given form of sharing (but not in the past 12 months) say they're likely to try that form of sharing again in the future. And, in fact, people who've dropped out of one or more categories of sharing are the people most likely to be engaged in other forms of sharing. In other words, people are trying different forms of sharing, sometimes to the detriment of other categories.
Dissatisfaction is not a factor. Where a sharer has given up on a form of sharing in the past year, only two percent of those instances are due to the sharer having a bad experience.
Will the collaborative economy grow even more?
Based on people's intent to try different sharing services, we're forecasting that eight in 10 Americans will be part of the collaborative economy by 2017. But the bigger threat for companies is this: as many as three in four traditional buyers have indicated that they might choose sharing instead of buying in the next year. For every person who has participated in a form of sharing in the past 12 months, there's a new person who intends to try that type of sharing.
The continued, rapid growth of the collaborative economy makes it clear that sharing is not a fad. Figuring out how to compete in this space is an urgent issue for companies today, and it's one of the main reasons why I founded my company, Crowd Companies. To remain relevant, brands need to get closer to their customers and identify the business models that make the most sense for them.
If you're not yet feeling the effects of collaborative consumption, it's only a matter of time. Sharing is disruptive and the companies that win in the collaborative economy recognize that they must change with and for their customers in order to thrive.