5 Ways to Use the Sharing Economy to Your Advantage
eBay pioneered the online peer-to-peer marketplace 20 years ago. Today, the sharing economy is ubiquitous—whether it’s giants like Uber and Lyft or the hundreds of online niche-sharing platforms people are adopting for goods and services. In fact, chances are that your business is already utilizing the sharing economy, perhaps by splitting office space through a company like WeWork or booking an apartment through Airbnb for business travel.
But have you taken a look at your company’s own business model and thought about how the sharing economy might disrupt it? Here are some ways to mitigate that risk:
Play devil’s advocate
How could a competitor create a sharing economy version of what your business offers? Most traditional companies (including tech companies) are in the business of selling (not sharing) either goods or services, so they’re surprised when a sharing-economy startup comes along, tweaks their business model and cuts into their market.
- Example: Most online travel agencies never dreamt that people might consider staying in other people’s homes instead of hotel rooms. So when Airbnb organized that entirely new supply base and cut into the hotel-room market, they were caught off-guard—and are still scrambling to compete.
Plan a pre-emptive attack
What are some realistic goals your company can start implementing that tap into the sharing economy? Are there ways you can share your own asset base instead of selling it? Are there ways you can tap your own in-house talent and start to share your workers?
- Example: Green household product manufacturer Seventh Generation shares all its equipment and facilities with partner companies. It saves on overhead and is also environmentally sustainable, which enhances their brand.
Look at your price point
According to a recent survey, half of consumers would be persuaded to try a sharing economy competitor if it saved them 25%. Are there ways you can create a “lite” or lower-end version of your product that might appeal to comparison shoppers?
- Example: Home Depot now offers a rental program for expensive tools and heavy equipment so their customers have an affordable alternative to buying something they may only need to use once.
One-third of consumers would be willing to try a sharing economy alternative if it’s easier to use. Think about new ways that you can put your customer first. You can even think about a mutually beneficial partnership with a sharing economy company that can make your goods or services easier to access for a small cut.
- Example: Whole Foods Market has partnered with Instacart in a handful of cities to offer a delivery option to their customers.
Build up your brand
Now is the time to work on your brand's reputation, particularly in the areas of customer service and a quality product. One quarter of consumers would choose buying over sharing if they were dealing with a brand they know and trust.
- Example: Ford is leveraging their established brand by partnering with the car-sharing service Getaround, encouraging customers to share their new Ford cars as a way to pay them off.
Because of technology, renting and sharing things today is as easy—and sometimes easier— than buying them. Don’t wait for the sharing economy to disrupt your business—embrace it and make it work for you.
 PwC, The Sharing Economy
 Vision Critical, The New Rules of the Collaborative Economy
 Home Depot, Tool & Truck Rental
 Instacart, Whole Foods Market Delivery On-Demand
 Getaround, Getaround Partners With Ford to Drive Future of Carsharing