How to Embrace the Sharing Economy

Most businesses worry about selling things. But perhaps they should think more about sharing them.

Sharing Economy

There’s a whole crowd (or Uniiverse, as it may be) of consumers now actively participating in the so-called “sharing economy.” The idea is that people are increasingly interested in borrowing – or renting – anything from power tools to spare bedrooms to baby clothes to bicycles, so they don’t have to buy things they only need occasionally.

To see what I mean, check out sites like GetAround, Airbnb, SnapGoods, LooseCubes and SkillShare. Well known businesses like Netflix were also built on the idea of sharing.

But it’s not just about things: The sharing economy is also about sharing ideas and information. Social media and the connectivity it begets has made sharing cool and helped spawn interest in group activities like cash mobs.

Sustainable business advocates encourage the “sharing” trend because it cuts down on needless consumerism by promoting “collaborative consumption.”  Time magazine last year called the sharing economy one of “10 Ideas That Will Change the World.”

Of course, this movement toward more borrowing and less buying could be fodder for entrepreneurs looking for the next business concept. But it’s also presents opportunities for established businesses.

Here are some tips for embracing the sharing economy at your business:

  • Understand the “less is more” mentality and opportunity. There’s a crowd of consumers, especially younger ones, happy to give up the luxury of having stuff at their disposal in order to save money and help the planet. Don’t overlook the opportunities that offers. (One analyst estimates the sharing economy may already be worth $110 billion.)
  • Determine if you can offer something sharable. Consumers probably aren’t interested in sharing toothbrushes. But they are increasingly willing to share things that are used sporadically. It can be a win-win situation: A business or individual can make extra money by renting out stuff; consumers don’t have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on things they hardly use. Determine what types of items or skills that you can offer that are shareable and test out whether there’s demand for renting it.
  • Keep an open mind. If nothing else, recognize that a new generation of consumers are thinking differently about purchasing things and more people care about how their consumption habits affect the planet. Keep yourself informed on these trends, and even try it out. You might discover your own benefits to borrowing instead of buying.

Have you tried out the sharing economy, either at your business or personally? If so, what did you think?

Share Photo via Shutterstock


Kelly Spors Kelly Spors is a former small-business and entrepreneurship reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal who has also written for Yahoo!, Entrepreneur, NFIB's MyBusiness magazine and The New York Times. Kelly is now a freelance editor and writer based in Minneapolis and has previously managed communications for an environmental non-profit that helps businesses find ways to be greener.

5 Reactions
  1. I love the idea of sharing because so often a service or product would only be used occasionally in the hands of a single person or company, but it can be utilized much more if shared. I also would like to see more people willing to repair products that break or age instead of just replacing them.

  2. I’m trying like crazy to get people to share the deals from our advertisers on moderncoupon with their Facebook friends and on Twitter. I don’t know how to incentivize that sharing. Anyone got a solution?