In the sharing economy, more local will mean less social.
This isn’t a contradiction in terms. According to senior business leaders participating in “The Evolution of Sharing Economy Towards Mobile: Successful Business Models” at the Mobile World Congress 4YFN, mobile technology’s ability to facilitate spontaneous, frictionless transactions could essentially eliminate the necessity of a face-to-face, social interaction, even among neighbors.
The sharing economy – sometimes also referred to as the collaborative economy – is based on a model where communities of people organize around a technology platform to obtain what they need using money, shared services, and more. Consulting company PwC predicts that the market will to grow to $350 billion by the year 2025.
Paulin Dementhon, founder and CEO of Drivy, a technology platform that connects car owners with car-less drivers in order to share cars, noted that mobile technology is enabling removal of every barrier to sharing cars, from signing contracts, to uploading pictures of the car’s conditions, and even opening the door, literally, with a mobile phone. It could soon eliminate the need for a face-to-face meetup for the exchange of keys at the beginning and end of a transaction. “Mobile technology takes us beyond the simple booking. The mobile potential is huge. We want people to forget what car rental used to be,” said Dementhon.
According to Edurne de Oteiza, COO of Wallapop, a mobile-only platform for buying and selling secondhand goods and merchandise, in the end the company is facilitating a peer-to-peer transaction, and the social component comes second. In looking toward the future, Ms. Oteiza remarked, “More and more we are occupied during the day, and it would be great to have a pickup point so our users could meet without meeting.”
According to Airbnb’s Jeroen Merchiers, general manager, north, east & south of Europe and Russia, frictionless transactions require seamless integration between the website and mobile app. “Users need to be able to continue a search from one device to another. They are dreaming of where to go next on their computer, not mobile. But as soon as they start traveling, their mobile device is their connection with the world.”
The panel noted that business-to-business companies like MuniRent are also dipping their toes into the sharing economy, with municipalities, hospitals, and other entities starting to share expensive equipment via platforms in much the same way.
While the panel focused on smaller, digital-native companies, discussion about how large enterprises will tackle the sharing economy was noticeably absent. The levels of live inter-functional coordination required in the sharing economy are just beginning to be established today by larger and more established businesses.