How can established organisations play to win in the sharing economy?

Features of the sharing economy are now being seen in most sectors, but only a few are likely to see a breakthrough business model emerge as a serious competitor.

Spot the disruptors early

Industries with long-standing consumption models are ripe for disruption, such as the energy industry. As energy supply becomes more distributed, customers could start to share excess electricity with their neighbours.

Organisations should start looking for the potential for disruption in their sector now. Some in the music, TV – and the hotels sector – didn’t identify the challenge quickly enough, and their shareholder value dropped as a result.

In contrast, the automobile industry spotted the trend early and got ahead of it: most car manufacturers now run their own car-sharing schemes; and others have made strategic investments in new entrants.

Beware of consumers becoming competitors

Where are threats likely to come from? Organisations should assess whether their customers might see opportunities to club together to form a peer-to-peer (P2P) network to rival their service.

These are most likely to emerge where the asset is widely distributed among the population, involves high fixed costs but often goes under-used.   Peer networks have already developed in several sectors – but this could spread to others with similar characteristics.

Develop a mitigation strategy

What options can threatened organisations consider to mitigate against disruption? They could acquire a new entrant, partner with them, invest in them, or develop differentiating products to continue to attract buyers.

Or companies can develop their own sharing economy concepts – using a tried and tested approach from one industry in another – for example, developing ‘access’ options alongside traditional sales channels, or taking a C2C concept into a B2C or B2B environment.

Bring the sharing economy inside your organisation

How can businesses benefit from the sharing concept? Most organisations have spare capacity in some form: manufacturing facilities operate at an average of 20% below capacity, and in most offices, around half the desks are unused at any one point in the day.  Developing B2B sharing agreements allow these assets to be used more efficiently.

Similarly, intangible assets, intellectual property and brand assets – which have previously been closed or proprietary – can be shared easily through technology. More flexible operating models are emerging, changing workers’ expectations and encouraging innovation in the process.

Sharing economy platforms can be used to help companies make more of these assets, reduce costs and potentially develop new revenue streams.