The collisions between megatrends can create new and disruptive environments. Consumers increasingly value access over ownership. This trend is currently playing out in a dynamic collection of sectors that is often labelled “the sharing economy”.
The sharing economy is being enabled by the collision of four main megatrends:
Technological breakthroughs makes online sharing economy platforms possible and reduces transaction costs. It also allows for more precise measurement of spare capacity and for connections to occur between owners and those who are looking for services and products, such as travellers using airbnb to find spare rooms in their destination.
Climate change and resource scarcity increases the opportunity cost of “owning” versus “accessing” products and services. Consumers are also becoming more environmentally conscious of the impact of their purchasing decisions, for example, preferring car sharing over ownership to lower their carbon footprint.
Rapid urbanisation creates the critical mass that many sharing economy platforms need in order to become viable business propositions. For example, car and ride sharing services are only profitable in areas of high population density.
Demographic and social change - today’s online platforms use peer review systems to effectively self-regulate quality. Consumers are becoming more comfortable in sourcing trust from these mechanisms (in the case of peer-to-peer lending, users are even willing to lend 'strangers' thousands of pounds). At the same time, status in society is increasingly gained through experiences rather than simply ownership of tangible goods.
The sharing economy poses big questions for established businesses trying to avoid disruption, new entrants looking to scale their offering and policy makers trying to regulate and manage the market.