Did you ever think to invite your Uber driver to your post-game? It happens more than you think.
Whether continuing a conversation with your Uber driver inside your own home (as was the recent case with some mod residents), toasting a jägerbomb to your Drizly deliverer, or forging a new friendship with the person whose dog you signed up to petsit on Rover, the way in which people exchange goods and services is no longer merely an efficient transaction — it is a means by which we connect on a personal level.
A new age marketplace has emerged. Whether you call it the sharing economy, collaborative consumption, or peer-to-peer exchange, both app developers and users are reinventing how our socioeconomic system functions through a “collaborative revolution.”
For many, including London-based AirBnB host Sebastian Sandy, sharing marketplaces are more than just a means to make money, they are a means for social enrichment.
In fact, as one of AirBnB’s first hosts, Sandys has been able to pursue his dream of managing a second-hand book shop through his AirBnB income. Most notably, his story is evidence of an interconnected community that remains loyal even after the point of transaction. So much so, that after the London riots, Sandys had 13 messages from former guests checking in to make sure he was safe.
The Importance of Trust
The bedrock of any effective peer-to-peer platform is trust. As Rachel Botsman describes in her TEDTalk “The Currency of the New Economy is Trust,” reputation and reliability are the social glue that make sharing possible. The user response on everything from AirBnB to Lyft (in which passengers are encouraged to sit in the front seat & interact with drivers), reveals that there is more than just accountability that informs this need for trust — people want to connect on a personal level. Thus it follows that the most effective apps become blue-chip platforms based on how they enable people to make meaningful connections while also maintaining a level of efficiency that consumers expect.
Lyft as the Poster Child
When building out their brand, the Lyft team created a community-centric platform based on relationships as opposed to impersonal transactions. Lyft is one of several sharing economy companies that grounds the globalized, mobile economy in the traditional principles of small town mercantile activities.
In fact, when asked how Lyft differs from Uber, co-founder and President John Zimmer had this to say:
“I think the two biggest areas of difference are, one, our mission. My co-founder and I have been working on this project for nine years now. We’ve always wanted to bring people together through transportation and I think the way that’s felt for the customers is we treat you better. Drivers can earn tips, drivers can earn driving bonuses and, by treating drivers better, drivers provide passengers with a better experience.”
In December 2016, Lyft released an engaging Pixar-esque animated short film created by Academy Award-winner John Kahrs that spotlights a lonely widow in historic South Chicago who is inspired to start sharing rides and in effect, her life. To top it off, the short film features the original song, “Movin,” written and performed by Sir the Baptist, a former Lyft driver who launched his music career after a connection with a Lyft passenger.
Of course, some platforms have room for improvement
For one thing, Uber CEO Kalanick could be doing a better job of building trust with both his users AND drivers.
Additionally, there is a site that allows people to “rent a friend” ~ whether it be a fake parent to sit in on a college disciplinary meeting or someone to place golf with. Not exactly an organic way to facilitate interconnectivity.
Ultimately, these peer-to-peer marketplaces allow for greater scope of distributing value for participants as they adapt to the evolving sharing economy landscape. As traditional business models continue to be disrupted by startups and larger companies adopt new ways to tap into the sharing economy, the platforms that promote trust and organically accommodate friendship will achieve greater competitive advantage. It is safe to say that many of these startups will not survive in the long run as the marketplace dynamics evolve, but a continued focus on how the user behavior influences these platforms is something to keep a close eye on going forward. Whether partaking in bike sharing services across major cities via Spinster or tapping into the world’s largest book-club through PaperBackSwap (my personal favorite), there are few limits to the connections that a trustworthy platform can generate.
Feel free to leave any questions, feedback or stories about how the sharing economy has impacted your life in the comments section below.