The sharing economy or collaborative consumption is not a new concept. Your ride on Uber or Lyft or your stay with Airbnb is an example of collaborative consumption among peers. What makes this concept interesting is the ability of companies based on the sharing economy to provide simplified but pleasant experiences for consumers. Such a simple service-driven concept is enabled by technology and is quietly having a profound impact on our society, leading to Social Change.
By definition, social change is a process of major changes over a period of time in the behavior pattern, cultural values, and norms of society. These changes have a long-term impact on society. So, let’s understand how these new age companies working on the old sharing economy model are helping to bring about social change:
1. Socially, we are moving from ownership to shared use: If you look closely at these companies, they don’t offer any technology for your use or offer direct services. Pleasant experiences are provided by someone who shares the goods and services with you. This is helping people move from full ownership to an exchange model, thus opening up to an unknown group of people from all over the world. This way of sharing cannot be seen as a sale, as the service provider allows you to be a part of something that you fully own and that you probably use as part of your daily life. The more people share, the more they grow and the more they grow, the more they share. In this way we are moving from me and you to us and us leading to a harmonized happy world. This is the basis of the new direction and a paradigm shift that is leading a new way of life: a social change.
2. We are relying on the unknown: Every time you consume a service through the sharing economy model, you trust the unknown. Yes, there are reviews about the services you plan to consume, but you have to trust reviews from people you don’t know and therefore trust the unknown. Consumers in one part of the world trust people in another part of the world, who they may have never visited. Picture this: You have planned a Chicago vacation trip and will be traveling from the comfort of your home in Colombo. You have booked a room through Airbnb and don’t know anything about your host in Chicago. The only source of information is some of the excellent reviews about the host. Still, go ahead, complete a great stay with the host, and give him 5-star reviews. This is really happening and it is happening around the world at a rate faster than your reading speed. Phenomenal. We, as a Society, are willing to trust more and take more risks to become citizens of the world. With a more optimistic outlook, this model of mutual respect and trust is having more success than the traditional model of consumption. This ability to trust the unknown is a challenge for well-established brands. You are driving them to innovate and gain consumer trust based on better services or value or else they are clearly facing extinction. We share more, we also care more and now we trust more as a Society.
3. We are embracing change: When you opt for services through the Shared Economy model, you are going from the traditional configuration to a completely new consumption model. Older models are more mature and it’s easy to stick with the old, reliable way of doing things, but the world is embracing this change. If the growth of companies like Uber or Airbnb is any indicator, then it is clear that the world is moving almost in one direction and that is to move from the traditional system to a new age model. When you look at the top surveys, you’ll find that Airbnb is booking more rooms than Hilton or Uber operates in more than 250 cities and has a better market valuation compared to many of the world’s leading airlines. This is not a surprise at all. With the proliferation of mobile and internet connectivity, we will see that this change will be embraced by a larger population, ensuring a deeper and more significant impact on society.
4. We support social entrepreneurship: Imagine this: an elderly woman in the UK has a 3 bedroom apartment close to the city center and does not want to put it up for long term rent (1 year or more) as her distant family visits her once or twice a year. At the same time, you want to monetize real estate investing. You like meeting people and you don’t want to feel alone. With the sharing economy model, you can do all of this with the ease of a few clicks. All you need to do is have the details uploaded to Airbnb or similar portals that you trust. Not only can you monetize investments, but you will also have the opportunity to meet people from a variety of backgrounds. No need to go through the hassle of hiring each tenant or hiring staff to run the program, no rushing around authorities, no need to run expensive advertisements, no follow-up, and no need to hire real estate agents. In this new model, you can run your own business in a simple but very effective way. When society begins to support its constituents, progress is inevitable. The whole world, well almost, is coming together to help you achieve your success. That is social entrepreneurship.
5. And we are helping the Environment: This is easy to understand but it has the most important impact on our future. When you opt for carpooling, bike sharing or carpooling, you are actually helping to reduce your carbon footprint, you are saving fuel and everything related to it. Rather than buying new things, we are repurposing and monetizing existing assets by sweating them away, which is always better than throwing out and buying new ones. The sharing economy model helps reuse stranded assets like cars, bicycles to empty rooms, as well as toys that otherwise sit idle taking up space and are rarely used. Underused assets quickly turn to waste, and this model helps eliminate them. By doing this, we are helping to relieve pressure on the environment by reducing the amount of old products that are thrown away or thrown away and also reducing the ever-increasing demand for new products. Added to this is the reduction in traffic congestion, savings due to lower consumption of energy and resources, and you will be able to clearly see the benefits of this new model in our Society as a whole. We are helping ourselves and the future of society as a whole.
As you may have observed, there is an inevitable change that we are all going through: we share more, accept more, embrace the new, become diverse, and improve tomorrow. This is definitely a huge paradigm shift that will slowly lead to a social revolution with a much more lasting impact than current technological advancements.
With the rise of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud or SMAC in short, this change will deepen even more and begin to impact the base of our social pyramid.
We are surely living in more interesting times than ever before – on the one hand we are moving towards automation / robotics and on the other hand we are opening up to the world as a society and generating social employment by sharing more, trusting more, caring more and embracing more .