Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Altimeter Urges Preparation for the Sharing Economy

If you are a regular reader of this blog over the past few years, you have seen news and insights about social business and the growing sharing economy. In fact, the reason I have been blogging a little less in the past month is that I am working on an ebook on the topic. (Watch for it in the next month or two!) Luckily, Altimeter Group just made the job of researching and writing my ebook a little easier. The firm, which has embraced a sharing model itself in how it collects and distributes research, has just published a terrific report on the sharing economy. 

The publication, by Jeremiah Owyang, defines the Collaborative Economy as:
An economic model where ownership and access are shared between corporations, startups, and people. This results in market efficiencies that bear new products, services, and business growth.

The shift in consumer consumption habits will have an increasingly troublesome impact to some long-standing business models. The report lists six categories of business that the sharing economy will affect, including the automotive business.  Altimeter cites some terrific data to make the point, such as that “every carsharing vehicle replaces 9-13 vehicles” resulting in a revenue loss of $270,000 to auto manufacturers.

The report surveys some 200 sharing economy companies with an average funding of $29 million. Almost two-thirds of these companies focus on peer-to-peer sharing (where an individual who owns an asset or has a skill makes this available for rent to other individuals) as opposed to business-driven sharing (where a business makes goods or services available to consumers). The difference is the difference between RelayRides (which allows consumers to rent their vehicles to other consumers) and Zipcar (which owns and disperses a fleet of vehicles for rent).

Owyang shares some excellent thoughts on what this new form of business will mean to companies. For example, he notes, “Companies risk being disintermediated.” Just like iTunes replaced Musicland and Amazon bumped Borders, the sharing economy will make losers out of the firms who fail to invest in the future.

The report also looks at the changes the sharing economy will bring within companies and not just externally. For example, Altimeter foresees a “porous workforce redefining employer and employee roles.”  And it notes that the “difference between employees and customers blurs,” citing the excellent example of GiffGaff, a UK telecom company that  leverages customer support communities to significantly reduce the need for customer support employees.

Altimeter’s report on the The Collaborative Economy is a great read and highly recommended for those who want to know the future. I hope you will also watch for my upcoming ebook, which explores these same trends and what companies can do today to prepare.

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