By Ron Watson, Jr.
As technology evolves and mainstream consumers embrace the values of the sharing economy, many analysts expect the idea to spread to new markets and avenues. But because the sharing economy relies almost exclusively on digital outfits (not brick-and-mortar locations) the average person’s willingness to trust the person at the other end of a peer-to-peer transaction will be critical to maintain the industry’s progress.
To this end, companies like CitizenShipper encourage new members to complete driver profiles that act as online resumes, detailing experience, feedback from past clients, and the vehicles they drive. Sharing economy review services have also emerged. TrustPilot works like a digital clearinghouse, compiling feedback from customers of thousands of online transactions to help prospective interested parties gauge their credibility.
Because of its social nature, those working in the industry need to maintain overwhelmingly positive customer feedback to instantly instill trust in someone they’ve never met located several states away. But even with the moves by businesses and workers, the issue of trust will always be a hurdle for sharing economy businesses to overcome. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, only 19% of Millennials were able to trust an average person, followed by 30% of the members of Generation X. More than 40% of Baby Boomers tend to trust people.
Accessing a broader range of users and addressing their needs will also become a factor in growing the sharing economy. As new communities surface, developers, investors, and entrepreneurs plan to identify and cater to them, which could attract people of similar interests yet to discover the benefits of this new business paradigm.
For example, offshoot communities focused on the equitable sharing of livestock have surfaced. Through Philly CowShare, cattlemen are connecting with separate customers to share the cuts of meat from a single cow, ensuring less waste. True Grass Farms butchers only 20 animals a year and offers high quality grass-fed pork, lamb and even Wagyu Beef. Green Pasture Farms, a small family-owned farm, will ship any custom order the next day.
Another question about sharing economy’s future revolves around the workforce. Some full time drivers for Uber and Lyft are lobbying for benefits and job security. Also, turning a profit can be tough for newcomers: they earn about $18/hr. starting out while experienced people with strong web presences earn $35/hr. on average.
The sharing economy has brought about a sea change in modern business, and it isn’t done yet. In many ways, it has a hive mind, capable of growing many directions at once because of collective communication and instant connections between peers.
One thing appears certain: As the sharing economy spreads its tentacles through the business world, the service sector has been forever changed by an idea that puts wage earning directly on the shoulders of its participants.