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What does the rise of collaborative consumption mean to your company?

Collaborative Consumption is the new buzz word that refers to a new wave of commerce and the notion that anyone can become a micro entrepreneur. The idea that waste is opportunity isn’t new, but it is the way in which the 21st century is taking advantage of this new found culture, allowing a globalized world to revert back to being local.

Technology, altruism, trust and of course the everyday struggle to save money are all key reasons behind the phenomenon that has led to the success of companies such as Airbnb.com, making over 50,000 bookings a day. But collaborative consumption is a product of consumer need. Consumers want to have more authenticity with brands, and they are looking for human interaction rather than just a transaction.

Different cultures have taken collaborative consumption and adapted it to their needs. One great example is in France, where the company leboeuffrancais.com allows connoisseurs of quality beef come together and buy at a price that is arguably as competitive as the big supermarkets. Furthermore they get to know about the cow, where it was reared, the age, and what cut. The users can create a relation with the farmerand the farmer can benefit from developing loyal customers that care about the qualitative factors of his profession.

How have the needs of users evolved?

Creating friendships rather than transactions is an idea that coachsurfer.com has coined through their system. Every trip is unique, you get to see the city through the eyes of a local resident and you get to step into that lifestyle. It is something that no hotel could ever replicate. It is authentic in the true meaning and it turns would be strangers into friends. The stories of these interactions are retold through the social media sites and on the home pages, helping to develop the notoriety of the brand.

In essence, the companies create a platform in which collaborative consumption can take place, letting their users take over and create their brand identity. Companies put in place measures to ensure that one user can trust the other, a system based upon online reputation. This reputation is key in converting would be users that fear the worst in opening up their lives to a stranger. The reputation of a user is developed through positive feedback metricssuch as testimonials that have real original content, helping to develop the identity of that person and the quality of the service offered and most importantly creating a person that people can identify with.

“Big companies should not see this as a threat, but an opportunity to provide a more meaningful experience to customers. When you connect to real people, you can provide more authentic experiences.” –Antonin Leonard, OuiShare.

Companies have to let go of their hold on their brand identity and start letting their customers create a community around them by letting them re-sell, lend or swap through a marketplace run by the company. These marketplaces already exist, so all the companies need to do is to get involved and encourage collaborative consumption. An example of a successful foray into collaborative consumption is Patagonia who urged their customers to “buy used and sell what you don’t need”. The success was clear and a new market was opened up those who valued the brand but could not afford to buy new, “The secondhand market opens up [our] brand to a lot of young people who can’t afford to buy it first-hand. In a way, it opens up a market to us that we might not have otherwise had.” –Vincent Stanley, Patagonia.

The message to companies is simply that they must open up to collaborative consumption and in return, they will reap the rewards of a new channel of business growth. 

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