FT Sharing Economy Summit: The Unstoppable Sharing Economy

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Last week, Mila attended the Financial Times’ inaugural Sharing Economy Summit along with Thomas Staudte, Project Manager of Service Experience and Innovation at Swisscom, our partner, and incidentally, Switzerland’s largest telecoms provider.

Thomas had been invited to speak on the panel, “Will the Sharing Economy Help — or hinder — businesses?” and to share his experiences with Swisscom’s crowdsourced “Swisscom Friends.” The service, now in its second year of operation, allows Swisscom customers to seek additional help for services from tech experts in their neighborhood, or what journalists have called the “geek next door”. Mila runs the service and manages the community of providers for Swisscom.

Overall, the conference provoked interesting discussions and debate, from how the sharing economy should be regulated, how government can help enlarge the sharing economy, to how companies can expand, and the benefits to large business.

Here are some of the findings from the conference put together from Thomas’ and our observations:

  • The sharing economy is growing faster than Google, Facebook and Yahoo combined with a current global value of $15 billion. It’s predicted to grow to a value of $335 billion by 2025.
  • Consumers use sharing economy to first and foremost for convenience and for cheaper costs. Sustainability is a secondary, even tertiary driver.
  • The sharing economy is quickly morphing into the “On Demand” economy. What matters is not so much the friendliness and social aspect of the sharing economy, but the quickness and convenience of being able to use an asset or receive a service. In the on demand economy the focus is back on delivering excellent customer service, even if that service is provided by “everyday” people.
  • Sharing economy tactics can work well for retailers. High ticket items offered on a rental basis can help spur other sales. For example: DIY chain B&Q sells more materials thanks to the success of its neighborhood tool sharing clubs “Streetclub.” Consumers buy more DIY materials when they don’t have to splash out on high-priced tools they’ll only use a few times.
  • Sharing economy tactics can help companies extend their customer service: At the conference, Thomas explained how Swisscom Friends allows customers to seek out additional help that isn’t necessarily covered by the telecom. For example: the service lets customers find help to set up child-safety filters on computers or tablets, or to back up data, or save years worth of photos.
  • Regulating the sharing economy is still a challenge, but both the UK government and the EC have signaled they want “sensible” regulation that ensures all parties – including incumbent businesses, start ups, and consumers – are all fairly protected.
  • Workers rights will be a contentious issue. There is a great sensitivity as the sharing economy morphs into the on demand economy that workers – and especially those doing lower-skilled, lower-paid work — will not be fairly protected. Their labour will benefit companies, but they themselves beyond an hourly wage will receive no traditional benefits.
  • The main challenges for businesses or B2B sharing economy plays will be regulation, insurance, trust and verification, and liability.
  • The sharing economy’s key verticals today are travel, transport, and skills; in the future, the key verticals will be in B2B, logistics, food, fashion, and items.

Were you at the conference? Let us know if you have anything to add in the comments.

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