Although Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber are the standouts, the on-demand model that these companies helped to pioneer now extends far beyond extra space and shared rides. Almost anything can be shared, rented, and ordered.
Millennials may have started the collaborative consumption trend, but many other consumers have now followed in their footsteps. Our relationship with goods and services has fundamentally shifted because of our smartphones and social media. Large social network companies including WeChat, Facebook, and LinkedIn see the opportunities this trend has opened up and are rapidly moving to become facilitators of the collaborative economy.
For a small but growing segment of the population, access to goods and services now trumps ownership, and the idea of peer-to-peer transactions seems a more convenient, affordable, and trustworthy alternative to buying from big companies. Collaborative models are now firmly established within the transportation, hospitality, and food sectors, and will likely be applied to far more sectors in the future. Even where they are not directly applicable, traditional businesses stand to glean valuable lessons from the success of these marketplaces. In the new world order, customer expectations are higher than ever. Businesses will need to embrace speed, convenience, transparency, and mobile transactability while becoming much leaner and more agile in their operations and supply chains. Companies that empower individuals—be they employees, brand ambassadors, or customer evangelists—with information, flexibility, and convenience will win their hearts, minds, wallets, and hours, while companies that fail to do so will have a tough time staying relevant and staying in business for long.