What makes Sharing Economy businesses successful? Why do some innovative concepts take off and others never make it out of the hangar? It can easily be said that customers drive business, whether it is a conventional mom-and-pop’s corner store, or a car-sharing business that depends on reciprocal input of local membership.
So understanding what motivates customers – whether they are members of a cooperative, clients who share an office space by the hour or professionals who share the administrative costs of an accounting and booking service, is an essential for any successful business. And the answer, not surprisingly, lies at the heart of what propels the Sharing Economy itself.
After all, you had a common bond that underwrote everything you did together: trust. You knew your best friend would never steer you wrong because in a sharing world, we respect the other’s opinion of us, and want them to keep on sharing as well.
“I value something more if I share it,” explains Ted D’Cruz Young, co-founder of New York’s popular meal-sharing cooperative, Mealku. And we value it because we inherently value the ability to trust and share in that experience.
So a person who wants to be able to rent a room in his house to a complete stranger has to be able to trust that his things will be respected during that two-day stay. And a person who orders a meal on a meal-sharing network has to be able to assume that that the bouillabaisse that’s been prepared in a private kitchen by an unknown cook is going to be as good, if not better, than a restaurant meal.
Nothing engenders trust more than the positive values we promote in our own business dealings. Remember that it may be just as hard for your customer to trust a total stranger as it is for you.
“You can’t just have one thing shared. There have to be many things that are shared to make the sharing economy really work,” says Katie Stafford, corporate communications manager for Car2Go .
Airbnb succeeds because there are others who believe in its philosophy and provide mutually supportive services in the area; Car2Go thrives in cities where there is a compatible transportation network that links well with a shared vehicle system.
And when you’re online don’t be afraid to share the PR, too. Social media has taught us that reciprocal shout-outs have valuable consequences, and even more so in a community that is based on sharing good experiences.
Car2Go has exhibited this principle by rewarding good neighbor practices, like topping off the tank (with the company’s gas card) with free drive time and using similar promotionals that attract new customers who want to try out the service.
Mealku takes care of all of the fuss and muss by proving transport service, and “paying” those members who cook, or do other tasks for the benefit of the community.
WeTeachMe co-founder Kym Huynh puts it another way: “Not only talk the talk but walk the walk.”
WeTeachMe is an innovative sharing economy model in Australia that provides services to self-employed instructors and teachers. They’ve particularly been popular with foodies who provide cooking classes, but are branching out into other sectors of education, such as language instruction.
Huynh said his business model is structured so that “we won’t grow if you don’t grow.” In other words, says Huynh, “Pay it forward.”
“The collaborative consumption movement has brought user accountability to services that were previously unable to hold bad actors accountable,” says Spector. Remember that what you say or the way you behave online on one forum or discussion may be accessible to potential customers and while publicity is good, disparaging behavior can undermine a new customer’s impression of your business. “Manage your Google footprint, and remember (if) there is vexing information about you out there that you can’t remove or alter, then be prepared to address this up front in your transactions.”
Need a bike? image is courtesy of Jason Tester.
Swap poster image is courtesy of The Swap Team.