A disruptive force is permeating the Internet and threatening to change the way we shop, buy and even own possessions. Movements that originally started in Silicon Valley and the outlying areas are rapidly expanding and traditional businesses as we know it are scared because they don’t know how to control it.
Called collaborative consumption, it blurs the line between possessions and ownership, cuts out the faceless corporations, potentially helps you financially and is almost certainly more environmentally friendly than the consumerist lifestyle many of us having been living previously.
The Fat Lady Sings
The first major disruption the Internet brought about was of course to the entertainment and media companies as people started willingly sharing the music they had purchased with strangers around the world for no profit or monetary incentive. It was literally a case of “this band is great, download and listen to it yourself”.
It took the combined efforts of thousands of lawyers just to get Napster.com shut down but the act of sharing music for free is still as rampant as before, the lawyers and media companies just pushed it further underground and it became harder to track.
The Collaborative Consumption World
If the Internet brought about the first disruption to traditional business then the great recession of 2008 has really kickstarted the idea that you no longer need to own possessions but you can borrow or rent them from people who live near to you and return them when you are done.
The concept doesn’t just stop at possessions either, anything which you have which is currently being unused has the potential to be shared with others around you for the greater good. Many people rent or own apartments which come with an allotted parking space but they don’t own a car so they have an unused space which someone else can use as and when required.
Share Your Space
Millions of people are put off traveling by the high prices of the hotels or dislike the cookie cutter experience provided by a hotel even when it’s in a very exotic location. As people become more adventurous they are looking to either save money on their trip or get a more authentic experience by immersing themselves in to the culture where they are staying.
A traditional hotel can never live up to the same experience as staying with a local and this is where sites like Wimdu, Airbnb, 9Flats and a whole host of others have found their niche market because it lets anyone in the world rent out their whole apartment, spare room or even airbed! These sites are basically enabling the connections to be made between two people from different parts of the world, handle the booking, transactions and customer service and set up great experiences for their users at a much lower cost than a traditional hotel.
To say the travel industry is alarmed by this new way to find a place to stay for the night is an understatement. Hospitality groups have been lobbying the government across America trying to make the practice of letting out your spare room illegal. However couchsurfing, as it’s sometimes known as, is here to stay as people vote with their feet and shy away from corporate greed and opt to use someone’s spare room instead.
Share Your Car
Need a car for the day but don’t want to pay the exorbitant fees charged by Hertz, Budget or any other car rental company? Then check out GetAround.com where you can rent a car by the hour from real people who simply don’t need their car all the time or maybe they just need the car to get to work and back and for 8 hours it’s sat idle in the office car park.
With prices as low as $5 per hour you can now rent a car on demand in your local area from someone who doesn’t need their car for that period of time. Again, you can imagine the consternation of the big car rental companies as they struggle to compete with this new way of flexible car rentals.
Rent Your Power Tools
As crazy as it sounds, you can even rent out your power tools like the cordless hammer drill you bought a few years ago when you were redoing the shower room and haven’t used since.
Sure enough you could probably head down to the local rental store but that would probably mean getting in the car, burning gas, you might get distracted on the way and buy a fast food meal – we’ve all been there! Instead you can choose a site like iRent2u.com or Zilok.com and find out if any of your neighbors have the power tool that you need just sitting in their garage.
Share Your Clothes
Before you make a face and go “Euw!” take a second and think about it. When was the last time you wore that tuxedo? Have you ever worn that suit you bought after the interview? Do you or your wife have 25 pairs of shoes sitting in the back of the closet? The truth is you probably do have plenty of more expensive clothes that hardly get worn so why just keep them gathering dust in your wardrobe?
There are plenty of people right now who need smart clothes for the big job interview but don’t have the money to buy or even rent anything from a chain store which is why renting out your clothes can help people in the community. Collaborative consumption isn’t just about making money from your unused items, it’s also about giving others a helping hand and making a better, more balanced society.
Rent Out Your Time
Got time on your hands or need a little extra help from a local? Then have a look at TaskRabbit where you can find individuals in your local area who will help you out with everything from a leaky tap to doing your grocery shopping (great for senior citizens!).
You no longer need to pay a hefty charge to have things delivered to your home, a friendly and helpful local is almost certainly willing to do the job for a few dollars which puts the money straight in their hands and not in to any shareholders or other people who didn’t do the ‘work’.
Share Your Skills
Have you ever been told that you make a mean cocktail or is your lasagna dish famous throughout town? Whatever your skill is chances are there are people willing to pay you directly to teach them, bypassing night schools or other associations.
Whether it’s cooking, teaching, music, art or something else, you can use a site like SkillShare to post your lessons and people from the local community can sign up to attend. You can choose to do one-on-one tuitions or group tuitions if you prefer.
Trash and Treasure
I’m going to roll out the old one “man’s trash is another man’s treasure” line here because although we’ve had sites like eBay for years to help you get rid of your stuff there was always an element of hassle involved and now most of the listings are filled with full time sellers looking to turn a profit rather than individuals.
If you do have unused items that are still in working order or could easily be repaired then don’t follow the wasteful society norms and throw it away with the trash, find out if someone else wants it. A classic example is cell phones; it’s estimated the average American family has at least 3 working phones sitting unused in a draw in their house. The phones still work perfectly fine but fashion, marketing and society pressure dictates that you must have the latest phone to show off.
Sites like Freecycle and Yoink are the perfect place to pass on your unwanted items without resorting to dumping them in to a landfill site. Unlike eBay you are giving your stuff away for free which is part of the social good that collaborative consumption encourages but also these sites are hassle free too because you just list your item, give it a small description, tell the site where you are located and then whenever someone comes to their site and looks in your area your item will show up. If someone wants what you have the site facilitates the connection and you can arrange a time for the person to come and pick up the item.
Collaborative Consumption Puts the Power in the Hands of the Consumers
The real power of collaborative consumption is that it can cut out the profit driven companies and makes society more focused on what’s local which can help to build and grow communities. It also helps to get away from the debt fuelled consumerist culture that many B2C companies have been pushing over the years and given what’s going on with the economy right now, turning away from debt and helping each other can only be a good thing.
There is also an environmental aspect to collaborative consumption because as it promotes sharing and recycling it means less goods have to be produced which lowers the strain placed on the natural resources of the Earth.
The next time you think you need to buy something or go somewhere then it’s worth checking out what’s available in your local community before going to one of the big box stores or staying in a soulless cookie cutter hotel.
Author Bio:- Peter Claridge is the Online Marketing Manager for Agriya who develop collaborative consumption platforms such as the Airbnb clone and Kickstarter clone software which enables anyone to create a site to rent out spare rooms or fund community projects.