Trends & Brands: The Sharing Economy
Written by Merle Veurman (09-09-2016)
Airbnb, Uber, or BlaBlaCar, as millennial in 2016 it is highly likely that you have used at least one of these services. These companies are examples of companies that indulge the sharing economy. In a sharing economy we no longer buy a bike, car or holiday home, we share or exchange one. The sharing economy and the companies behind it are growing. What makes the sharing economy a trend, where does it come from and what are the long-term consequences? We discuss it in this article.
A trend slowly changes norms and values, adds value to society, has lasting consequences and has an exponential growth, flattop and descending final. The sharing economy is a trend because it fits in this model. Like said before people nowadays use, for example, Uber or Car2Go rather than buying a car. People care less and less about ownership. This can be seen in figure 1 for example. In the statistics you can see that the amount of cities that offer Bike-Sharing services is growing. This is partly due to supply and demand; the more people are willing to sharing a bike the more bike-sharing takes off. When we look at figure 2 you can see that people who are younger are more likely to participate in the sharing economy. This shows that the trend has changed values of people and will result in lasting consequences. A few years ago it might have been the norm to own a bike where as now more and more people share a bike. In figure 1 it is also visible that there is an exponential growth when it comes to bike-sharing. This exponential growth can also be seen when looking at companies like Airbnb and Uber who use the concept of sharing products as well. This shows that the sharing economy is a growing trend and is part of a trend life cycle.
Now that we have looked at all the features a trend has we can assume that the sharing economy is indeed a trend. The question now is in which part of the trend pyramid we can place the sharing economy. There are 3 levels of trends; mega, meso and micro trends. Mega trends happen on a social level, meso trends are on a consumer level and micro trends are on a product/market level. The sharing economy is a meso trend. It creates a awareness among customers that they have a particular need; They no longer want to own they want to share. This is a characteristic of a meso trend. Another characteristic is that a meso trend is based on a mega trend. In this case the mega trend is the growing awareness of global climate change. People have become more aware of their ecological footprint and act more on it. Sharing is a fairly easy way to do this. For example, by sharing a car there is a car less on the road so there will be less co2 emission. On a micro level this means that products have to be created in a way that the customer can reuse, exchange or maybe even share it their products.
Like said before the sharing economy, as a trend is, part of trend life cycle. The trend life cycle is a development of events that makes a new trend able to exist and develop and follows its growth into a proper trend and into it declining. The trend life circle starts with the originals, the people who come up with the idea. Then come the setters, the people who pick up the idea and adopt them followed by the trend watchers, they watch the setters and report about the new trend to the public. Then come the followers, the big public that gets on board with the trend. Until finally the laggards come, these are the people who pick up the trend when it is already declining.
Like said before the trend of the sharing economy is still picking up. For example Airbnb; Airbnb started in 2008. In the summer of 2010 it 47.000 people stayed at an Airbnb host this grew 353(!) times over five years when in 2015 17 Million people stayed with an Airbnb host (Business Insider UK 2015). Another popular company in the sharing company is Uber. Uber is just as Airbnb growing as well. Uber started with only a few cities in the US in 2010/2011, followed by a few international cities in 2012. At the moment it has over 300 cities in over 60 cities and growing (Business of Apps 2015). This exponential growth means that the trend of the sharing economy is in the upward stage of the trend life cycle, the followers are still coming. More and more people are still getting on board with the trend of the sharing economy. What I wonder is, is the sharing economy a trend? Will there be a time when this trend fades away? The sharing economy comes from a different way of thinking, less materialistic, less environment damaging. Is the sharing economy a trend or is it a different lifestyle, a revolution that is going to grow more and more over the coming decades?
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