Owning a car, house or designer bag has always been a big financial commitment, but once upon a time it was a commitment people were willing to make. Now, however, the mindset of consumers is changing from one of sole ownership to a culture of sharing. Consumers are becoming proudly possession-free, happy to rent a vehicle or a bed where and when they need it for a fraction of the price.
RMIT University Marketing Lecturer Dr Samuelson Appau, says there used be a trend toward owning possessions, which was connected to social status. This is no longer the case.
“Due to many factors, which climaxed with the global financial crisis (GFC), there has been a mental shift that challenges the value of amassing possessions, which mostly have little use for the owners,” he says.
“The GFC was a wrecking ball that smashed consumers’ taste and ability to keep buying and owning possessions.”
RMIT’s free online course Business Futures: The Sharing Economy commences 6 March
Appau acknowledges that supply of such possessions is no longer limited to businesses. “Just about anybody can participate in the creation and direct exchange of value.”
What does this mean for businesses? For many it is an opportunity to connect consumers with products – often products that may not have been considered by the consumer pre-share economy. Businesses can effectively become the curators of goods and services (think Uber and airbnb), connecting consumers with the best products in their remit – at a fraction of the cost.
The sharing economy requires a shift in thinking from traditional shopfront businesses that market to the “gimme” consumer, and it needs to happen fast. According to RMIT Senior Lecturer, Dr Bernardo Figueiredo the sharing economy will grow considerably over the next decade.
Like all opportunities, it’s scary, largely unregulated, and disruptive but, for businesses, it could mean the difference between a thriving business and a closed door.
Watch this space
The regulation of the sharing economy is a work in progress, and one full of debate. Some argue that currently there are not enough measures in place to mitigate tax avoidance. Others argue that regulation will stifle the sector. Whatever the outcome, the sharing economy is here to stay – how it will be regulated remains a space to watch.
The RMIT Online Business Success program is a series of four Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) through FutureLearn Programs. It is a free online series targeted at people who want to start an online business. The program consists of four MOOCs focusing on planning, positioning, pricing, and digital marketing. The participants will have access to RMIT’s network of entrepreneurs to give practical real life guidance towards business success. The first three MOOCs attracted 15,000 students.