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27 August 2014

Marketers, don't underestimate the impact of the sharing economy

The sharing economy is everywhere. As marketers, we should realize that this phenomenon can have a huge impact on existing business models, so we’d better get ready for a future where sharing will become the new owning.


Collaborative consumption is of all times. I’m sure many of you will have known those times when it was common sense to grow a pig or a cow, and to share the meat with your family and neighbors. Today, it goes much further than that. Empowered by digitalization, we’re sharing cars, places to stay, ideas, music, videos,…

But what are the drivers behind this societal change?  3 key drivers can be identified:

  • Sharing for economical reasons 

People share a product or a service because they get an economical advantage out of it. Think about families forming a community to buy their energy together, in order to obtain a better price. Or people subletting a room in their apartment to generate an extra income.

  • Sharing driven by ecological motives 

Step by step, consumers are getting more conscious about the impact of their consumption behavior on our planet. The sharing idea can lead us to a more sustainable way of living. Think about the success of community gardens, swishing events, car sharing,…

  • Sharing driven by self-identification

Where individuals used to identify themselves by owning something, we see that today it’s an upcoming trend to do this via sharing things. As an individual, you build an identity in your network based on what you do, what you provide and what you share[1].

In each concrete example of the sharing economy, all of these drivers have a certain influence. If you drive a Cambio car for example, you’re not only saving money and doing good for the planet, you’re also identifying yourself as someone who’s conscious about his/her own consumption behavior.

It’s needless to say that the evolution to an economy where sharing will become the new owning will have a huge impact on our current way of doing business. Today, we see that individuals are more powerful than ever. Any empowered individual or community can become a competitor. Next to that, today’s consumers are less interested in owning a product. It’s all about experiencing something, and sharing this experience with others.As marketers, we should realize that we’ll get in trouble if we ignore or minimize this evolution.

In order to answer this trend, we marketers should evaluate our current business model and integrate the sharing philosophy into your way of working. This can be done by implementing an agile way of working and adopting the idea of a networking organization.

Build smart connections, as well with internal departments as with external partners. Share your insights, information in order to enrich each other’s ideas. Create sharing platforms and work together in project groups. The results of our latest Yearly Marketing Survey showed that in this case, the role of a marketer should be the one of a cross-functional project manager, who orchestrates and manages all internal and external partners.

If we succeed in implementing this way of working, we’ll enable ourselves to become smarter, more innovative & much more reactive to external changes. Are you ready to tackle this challenge?


[1] Hinssen, Peter - Sharing is the new owning, and how that changes your industry, 2014