What's the Future of the Sharing Economy?

Where is the Collaborative Economy heading and what value will it bring to business, brands and customers of the future? 

The Sharing Economy is a topic that has been garnering a lot of attention lately -- from startups embracing the collaborative model to consumers embracing the age old “sharing is caring” philosophy when it comes to vacation rentals, like AirBnB, or transportation solutions like NYC’s Citibike or Zipcar. We at sparks & honey have seen real value in the sharing economy trend as of late and recently partnered with global digital agency, Tribal Worldwide, to host the Collaborative Economy Summit, in which we set out to gather thought leaders in this space an answer one simple question -- where is the Collaborative Economy heading and what value will it bring to business, brands and customers of the future? 

Turns out we learned a few more interesting things along the way. Here are three key takeaways that emerged from the Summit:

  • Sharing isn't new: Sharing is human nature and has been around since the beginning of time. So, what is new about the sharing, or collaborative, economy and why is this an important exponential shift? Today, we have sophisticated platforms that allow for instant sharing, like super-fast mobile devices that allow for sharing from any location and online payment systems that allow for quick, online transactions. The combination of these factors allow for sharing at scale and across boundaries. A global, scalable sharing platform is allowing for the emergence of an unexplored economy. It has been driven by tech startups in its infancy, but is ultimately moving from an emerging model to one that is adopted by the masses. The Collaborative Economy is currently where social media was 10 years ago and this new economic model will no doubt continue to build momentum and disrupt most industries in the years to come, just as social did.


  • The Open Brand API: Most brands today are built like walled gardens and have not yet embraced the Collaborative Economy. In fact, many brands are outright dismissive and suggest this is just a way for millennials to make some extra cash during the recession. Many critics have suggested that Airbnb, Zipcar, Flightcar and Uber are passing trends. However, when you see companies like Wikispeed that has utilized the power of the Collaborative Economy to tackle automotive manufacturing, it becomes clear that brands need a road map for entering and navigating the Collaborative Economy successfully. For most industries, there is a new collaborative model waiting to be discovered. Brands have two choices: they can disrupt, or be disrupted. Brands will need to open up and begin to consolidate less behind walled gardens and embrace an open, collaborative model. This model will allow for Collaborative Economy contributors and participants to help shape and build brands while also participating in the upside of the company. The fast and fluid oscillation between areas of concentration and fragmentation are at the core of the brands of the future.

  • Haves vs. Have-nots: As the Collaborative Economy expands, the digital divide or gap between the “haves” and “have nots” will increase. The Collaborative Economy will give rise to a new type of knowledge worker that will define the future of work and the global economy. Over time, we will see a gap created between the individuals that are actively participating in the Collaborative Economy and the ones that aren't. The base level of entry into the Collaborative Economy is online access via a mobile device. As participants become more active and sophisticated in the Collaborative Economy, the gap will widen between them and the non-participants. Garnering access to the Collaborative Economy will likely become one of the greatest global social issues of the next 20 years.

    Last week’s summit that aimed to discuss the early learnings and future visions of the Collaborative Economy generated much commentary and debate and the overarching takeaway was that there is an explosion of energy around the Collaborative Economy that we expect to only increase. We can’t predict exactly what will happen when the collaborative economy moves from the fringe to the mainstream, one thing we are certain of is that there are many industries ripe for disruption; those that recognize it early will ride the wave and those that don’t pay attention will lose out on a new, lucrative way of doing business.

    sparks & honey is a next generation agency that helps brands synchronize with culture. Follow us on Twitter at @sparksandhoney to stay up to date on the latest high energy trends.

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