The Sharing Economy: How Ford, GE, and Patagonia Have Succeeded

Ford Motor Co. With younger consumers driving less and being less likely to buy cars, Ford needed new ways to reach them, so it partnered with Zipcar to stock the campus-based car-sharing program Zipcar U with Ford Focuses and Ford Escapes. “We figured that by getting our cars into the hands of the younger generation, […]

Major brands are entering the sharing economy arena by partnering with startups, creating their own marketplaces for peer-to-peer commerce, or tapping the maker market. Here are some recent successes.

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Ford Motor Co.

With younger consumers driving less and being less likely to buy cars, Ford needed new ways to

reach them, so it partnered with Zipcar to stock the campus-based car-sharing program Zipcar U with Ford Focuses and Ford Escapes. “We figured that by getting our cars into the hands of the younger generation, we would provide them with transportation and expose them to what the Ford brand is all about, namely fuel-efficient vehicles with connectivity,” says Scott Monty, Ford’s global digital, multimedia, and communications manager from 2008 to 2014. “It was an opportunity to ‘get butts in seats’ by giving them something of value.”

Similarly, Ford has created time-limited promotions designed to introduce Ford cars to Uber and Lyft drivers and their passengers. The auto company provided Uber drivers in San Francisco with a fleet of Ford Explorers in which to offer a day of free rides.

Further, it equipped Lyft drivers with Ford cars for a program that offered rides between startups in downtown San Francisco and San Francisco International Airport, about 13 miles south.

Ford also has an ongoing relationship with TechShop, an organization that provides workshop space where anyone can learn to use design software and fabrication and prototyping tools. In 2012, TechShop opened a co-branded space on the Ford campus in Allen Park, Michigan, that’s open to the public.

“For sharing economy startups, partnering with larger companies is about getting access to their resources,” Monty says. “But for the larger companies, it’s about staying agile, staying ahead of the curve, and having access to new audiences and new ideas.”

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Patagonia

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A pioneer in sustainability and an early supporter of peer-to-peer commerce, Patagonia is working with yerdle, a Freecycle-style startup, to help people find new homes for used Patagonia outdoor wear that still has plenty of life left in it. “By building a community of people who will trade used items instead of purchasing new ones, Patagonia shows its commitment to sustainability and proves that its goods are durable and high quality,” says Jeremiah Owyang, a business technology consultant specializing in the sharing economy. “By reaching this new, more price-sensitive market and getting them to try a used product, they might also get these customers to buy a new product later.”

General Electric

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GE is working with Quirky, a crowdsourcing platform for the maker community, to develop new products based on GE’s unused intellectual property. Quirky’s global community of inventors, marketers, and designers submits ideas and votes for the ones they like best. A panel of industry experts and community members then selects the most promising ideas for prototyping. GE funds and sponsors the supply chain of successful prototypes. The first product of the partnership is a highly efficient, smart window air conditioner that began shipping in May 2014. The inventor, a retired U.S. Department of Energy employee, will receive a check for US$700,000 for his contribution to the project.

“By inventing products outside the scope and focus of GE’s businesses, the Quirky community creates more value from GE’s patents,” explains says Lisa Gansky, head of Mesh Labs and author of The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing. “GE and Quirky generate revenue and build trust and brand equity with the crowd, which helps them attract future talent, and the people in the Quirky community who participated in creating a successful project receive a share of the revenues. It’s a win-win-win scenario.”

There’s more.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW YOUR COMPANY CAN PARTICIPATE IN THE SHARING ECONOMY, DOWNLOAD THE IN-DEPTH REPORT HOW BRANDS CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SHARING ECONOMY AND THE EXPERT Q&A TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE SHARING ECONOMY: MISTAKES TO AVOID.

The SAP Center for Business Insight is a program that supports the discovery and development of new research-based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.

About the author:

Prof. Dr. Christian Berg is global head of sustainability, Business Transformation Services, SAP SE.

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.

Tags:

#feature, Sharing Economy