Popping next door to borrow a cup of sugar may finally be a thing of the past...these days we can borrow far more than just sugar!
The internet is making sharing easier and easier. Through the sharing economy, or ‘collaborative consumption’ as it is sometimes known, everyday people are becoming micro-entrepreneurs and unlocking untapped value from underused assets such as spare rooms, cars, even clothes.
In fact, a weekend away has never been so simple to organise through your smartphone. Through a series of apps you can borrow a Whipcar to take you to your Airbnb apartment, collecting a Borrow my Doggy pet en route. Once you arrive at your destination why eat at a chain restaurant? When you can participate in Meal Sharing and eat your neighbours’ home-cooked, authentic food. At the end of your stay save time on packing or cleaning by calling a TaskRabbit to do the last bits and pieces before handing back the keys. While you may still be paying for a nice weekend away, the thought of avoiding our money going to large corporations is appealing to many.
We no longer trust companies in the way we used to. The annual study by the Reputation Institute found only 15.4% of UK consumers believe what companies say in their advertising, with the rest neutral, disbelieving or unsure. As the exposés of our favourite brands show us that the products we trusted, the prices we were used to and the services we expected have disappeared, we are looking to place our trust elsewhere. Instead, we trust people we have never met, spoken to or seen to ‘crowdsource’ qualitative information such as where we should go, what we should buy and more importantly, from whom. Virtual trust has become valuable currency.
The collaborative economy thrives on trust gained from user experience. Where the internet provides recent sharing feedback about how trustworthy someone is, we are willing to exchange insights, goods, even money with them. Sites such as TrustCloud have formalised this relationship by creating a virtual Trust Card that you can carry with you from one sharing site to another, just like a credit rating.
The emphasis on trust has big implications for organisations. If consumers are now basing decisions on which organisations, people and products they trust, how do organisations market themselves as ‘trustworthy’? Ethisphere rates the most ethical companies each year, a rating that we could see becoming more influential in not only where we shop, but also where we want to work. To earn a spot on the Ethical companies list, an organisation needs to have robust compliance policies and strong corporate social responsibility policies while the list also axes alcohol, tobacco and firearm firms. Interestingly, many organisations rated as the most ethical also feature in the ‘Best companies to work for’. These organisations have managed to develop an attractive Value Proposition both for their customers and their employees.
It’s clear that technology has enabled us to better share our assets, talents and knowledge but there has also been a change in mindset. It seems that we are beginning to value access over ownership and ethics over big brands. What is clear is that if organisations want to succeed, they need to demonstrate not just their value, but their values.