Sponsored: Four Ways the Sharing Economy Is Bigger Than You Think

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Since launching in December 2013, Near Me has been diving deep into learning what brands and small businesses are looking to achieve with peer-to-peer marketplaces.

Near Me has learned from our sales leads and community that the phrase “sharing economy” does not just refer to one type of transaction between two people or groups--but it encompasses so much more. In fact it reaches far beyond sharing that we believe one day people will just refer to it as the economy.

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We have defined collaborative consumption into four different categories of marketplaces that are all supported and can be built on Near Me. Brands, small businesses and entrepreneurs are looking for sharing and renting, buying/selling/reselling, peer services and bartering/trading and swapping. All of these categories make up the sharing economy. Author Lisa Gansky describes the phenomenon as “The Mesh” and shows how companies who embrace the concept can: “create, share and use social media, wireless networks, and data crunched from every available source to provide people with goods and services at the exact moment they need them, without the burden and expense of owning them outright.” The result of such “information-enabled commerce” is a force that is driving new businesses and reviving old ones.

Sharing and Renting

The mindset of utilizing your resources and recycling have been gaining momentum since the 1990s but rising unemployment and a sluggish economy have paved the way for the viral growth of businesses like Airbnb and Lyft. Obviously, these networks provide individuals a good alternative source of income, but small businesses can also reap the benefits by offsetting their startup costs and living expenses for the first few “lean” years by augmenting their core income with smaller ventures utilizing their unused space, tools, or products. With over 80 million sharers in the U.S., there are an endless amount of opportunities for sharing outside of space including power tools, RV’s, camping gear, purses, skills and more. It’s time to think of the options here. For example, Cloud Peeps is a marketplace for community managers where company owners looking for a campaign or a project based social media expert can hire one from the inventory of qualified professionals. Another marketplace idea is Pley, where you can rent used, clean legos for your children. Near Me allows you to focus on building your business with sales and marketing and expedites your technology to go to market in a matter of weeks.

Buying, Selling, Reselling

Sustainable consumption practices have been appealing worldwide for years through familiar stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army and other thrift stores. Used goods need not be thrown away after light use and businesses that provide forums to recycle products find themselves in a win-win situation. Michelle Regner, Founder and CEO of Near Me uses ThredUp to sell her gently used baby clothes at a fraction of the cost. Craigslist, Amazon, and Ebay pioneered the online used goods marketplace, but more traditional brands are also embracing the popularity of the sharing economy. Ikea recently launched a ‘virtual flea market,’ an eight-week campaign that helped customers sell old furniture through Ikea’s digital network. The formal campaign chose 50 customers and professionally refurbished then promoted their old pieces, but the Ikea Facebook page acted as a digital flea market for any seller or buyer for the duration of the campaign. The campaign was meant to promote the brand’s sustainability message, but also to bring awareness to new Ikea products and encourage consumers to go through their stuff and resell what they don’t use while making room for new Ikea furniture – which it seems to have accomplished beautifully. H&M launched a similar program in 2012 when they started trading store vouchers for used clothing. Near Me can create a customized marketplace for any brand that is looking to retain their customers, grow traffic and build stronger community than social media ever has. The time is now as peer-to-peer companies like ThredUp are already re-selling gently used clothing online.

Services

According to Freelancer’s Union, one in three Americans is an independent worker. That’s 42 million people. The shift away from the traditional 9-5 workforce means many more people are freelancers, weaving together a quilt of smaller projects and short-term engagements to make a living. Shyp, a tech-based shipping service founded in 2013, offers people a fast and easy way to ship packages. Users simply snap a photo of the item to be shipped and schedule a pick up. If users have one package to ship, there is a $5 pickup fee, if they have multiple packages the fee is waived and the shipping cost is no more than standard USPS. This allows brands, businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals a way to outsource a service, save time, and as a result, money.

Bartering and Trading

In 2012 the U.S. barter market (goods and services exchanged without money) was estimated at about $12 billion, annually. For an individual or business looking to get involved, bartering exchange networks can be a good place to get started as they provide access to a large pool of vetted goods and services. Barter Business Unlimited, a CT-based exchange network, deals only in “barter dollars” meaning no monetary exchange takes place. Newly launched Swapdom gives users access to a large online swapping community where they can barter and trade goods in groups, which gives people many more options than they would have with a direct swap. Making a profit can be tricky, but it’s a great way for businesses to liquidate excess inventory and receive something useful in return. Or, if business is slow, a company might offer services in exchange for say, free accounting or legal advice. In other words, it can compliment traditional profit-making practices, not replace them.

These flourishing collaborative consumption practices have transformed commerce into a multi-dimensional marketplace where adaptive brands can and should take advantage of each new facet to maximize profits and offset risk. It's time for us to accept the diversity in commerce and welcome brands and small businesses to meet their customers where they are--in whatever vertical that is or will be. Near Me’s platform as a service powers each of these types of marketplaces and helps brands and small businesses be a part of the new economy.


Michelle is the CEO and co-founder of Near-Me.com, a 'platform as a service' powering global brands and small businesses with a customizable peer-to-peer marketplace. Its flagship product, DesksNear.Me, is a website connecting mobile workers to available desk spaces all over the world.