In our personal lives, it seems that people are returning in droves to old-school market behaviours of renting, swapping and lending goods and services instead of buying them.
The growth of the “collaborative consumption” movement or the “sharing economy,” supported by the social fabric of the connected internet is growing at a scale and speed never thought possible.
The “always-on” nature of the web and our mobile devices means it’s never been easier for individuals to share a car, rent a cool holiday space or swap their under-utilised power tools with those in their local community, whilst at the same time creating new opportunities for micro-entrepreneurs to make some extra money.
A similar wave of change is now set to hit the workplace where the rise of the collaborative consumption movement is helping smaller businesses to efficiently tap into underutilised resources and work more productively by saving time and reducing cost.
What is the collaborative consumption movement?
From crowd-funding to co-working office spaces, there are many collaborative consumption services now available to businesses. Behind each of these collaborative marketplaces, technology is used to provide businesses with access to (rather than ownership of) scarce or underutilised resources – whether it’s time, skills, cars, accommodation or other things.
How can your businesses tap into the collaborative consumption movement?
Here’s a few suggestions on how your business can tap into the collaborative consumption movement to improve productivity, lower costs and unlock the benefits of the connected hyperlocal community:
Human Resources: Many small businesses need to hire extra staff for short-term projects such as promotional work, mystery shopping or event staffing. The collaborative consumption movement allows businesses to easily access a scalable, on-demand local workforce as needed. For example, Airtasker is a service that helps businesses hire anywhere from one person to help unpack boxes for a day to a team of one thousand Airtaskers to conduct an Australia wide mystery shopping project.
Outsourcing certain tasks around the office can also ensure that staff can concentrate on their core competency, like sales or marketing. Getting skilled staff to work on “odd jobs” and time consuming errands is a waste of a resource that could be better suited to achieving prime business objectives.
Workspaces and Accommodation: For some businesses, the cost of renting office space no matter the size can mean costly overheads and expenses. Services such as Deskwanted.com are connecting businesses who are seeking a workspace with businesses that have spare desks and facilities. A good example of a co-working space includes Tank Stream Labs which offers desks and connectivity as well as a collaborative environment where businesses can set up their office and interact with other similarly sized businesses at a fraction of the cost.
For businesses who have staff frequently travelling interstate or internationally, AirBnB is a listing of places to stay. Rather than putting executives up in expensive hotels, companies can use AirBnB to find an apartment for a short or long stay. This is especially useful in cities where accommodation is expensive, like New York and Sydney.
Staff training and motivation: Businesses looking to train staff should take a look at WeTeachMe, a marketplace for learning experiences. Businesses can find personalised courses run by expert professionals in niche areas like SEO, online marketing or business plan writing. Staff can also be encouraged to share their expertise with people interested in their respective fields. This is a great way to utilise the skills of expert professionals without running a costly training program just so your staff can properly use PowerPoint.
Car pooling: As traffic and congestion continue to increase, the commute to work is becoming more and more problematic. JayRide is a marketplace for carpooling, allowing groups of people who are traveling to the same destination to share a ride. Hugely popular in Europe, companies can create their own car pools and allow staff to save money and travel together, increasing productivity and doing the right thing by the environment!
Borrowing niche items: Some items will only be needed for a specific period of time, maybe a one off event or a unique shipment of stock. Purchasing a brand new piece of equipment can be costly if the business will not be using it again, not to mention wasteful. Open Shed is a platform that allows people to borrow under-utilised items from one another. Businesses can use Open Shed to borrow items for events, perhaps a balloon pump, stock trolley or power drill as a one off rental, instead of purchasing the item new. There is also an option to set up a workplace market for sharing items, a great way for staff to engage with each other, and monetise valuable items which are not being used effectively.
Small businesses are for the most part entrepreneurial in spirit and have a keen eye on the bottom line. Unlike many large corporates, these smaller companies also have the flexibility and freedom to test new and creative ways of conducting business.
Like those who were quick to respond to big shifts in online behaviour, such as digital advertising and social media, those who tap into products and services available through a vibrant collaborative consumption movement are well placed to punch above their weight.