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What does it take to compete with the likes of Uber, Airbnb and Instacart?

That’s the main question we answered in our recent webinar, The New Rules of the Collaborative Economy. The live webcast featured Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies and a leading authority on the collaborative economy, and Andrew Reid, Vision Critical founder and president of corporate innovation.

If you missed the webinar, you can watch an on-demand recording now. Some key takeaways are also highlighted below.

Customer empowerment fuels the growth of the collaborative economy.

According to Reid, we are now in the midst of a customer revolution—an era when a single empowered customer can have significant impact on your brand.

“Reviews are the new currency,” said Reid. “The ability for a few handful customers to wreak havoc on your brand is absolutely amazing and impressive, and it’s the reason why this customer revolution is just beginning.”

Reid says companies must rethink their approach to customer relationships in order to survive.

Companies that ignore the growth of the sharing economy are at risk of becoming irrelevant.

Established companies can’t ignore sharing startups because the collaborative economy is here to stay. Owyang revealed that startups in the peer-to-peer movement have received at least $25 billion in funding so far—money that will fuel further growth in this space. “The collaborative economy—these peer-to-peer models—is in every aspect of society and it’s continuing to grow,” Owyang shared. As we revealed in the accompanying report, more than 110 million North Americans are now part of the collaborative economy—a growth of 25 percent since 2014.

Companies must engage customers in order to survive.

To get ahead of trends in customer behavior and attitudes, companies must focus on engagement.

“Customers are the people that are driving this change,” said Reid, stressing that mobile-enabled, on-demand, customized products and services are fast becoming the new normal in the sharing economy. Companies that fail to offer customers what they want, when and how they want it are in even greater peril.

He added, “You need to keep tabs on your customers to understand where they are at.”

Develop a deeper understanding of your customers to determine the right strategy.

The research that Owyang has done suggests that there are three main ways companies can compete in the collaborative economy: by price, convenience or brand.

To determine the right path forward, however, companies need deep customer intelligence. If you understand what motivates your customers and how trends shape buying behavior overtime, you are better prepared to pivot proactively and evolve your strategy and explore tactics.

Determine the most viable business model.

Owyang shared some interesting examples of how big brands are competing in this new economy. Companies that haven’t entered the space yet should consider checking out these examples for inspiration.

Here are a few approaches, according to Owyang:

  1. Create a peer-to-peer marketplace, as Ikea Norway has done with its Second Hand campaign. The company’s recent initiative provided a platform where customers could sell used IKEA furniture to each other.
  2. Offer your brand as a service. This approach works for companies that have products that can be offered on an access model—for instance, GM’s car-sharing program called Let’s Drive, which recently debuted in New York.
  3. Enable a platform. This approach especially makes sense for companies that have a strong R&D culture. An example is Hasbro’s partnership with the crowdsourcing company Indiegogo, asking the crowd for ideas for the next big face-to-face game. Hasbro also enables its customers to 3D print products via Shapeways, a 3D printing marketplace.
  4. Partner with a sharing startup. Companies that aren’t quite ready to launch their own efforts in the collaborative economy should consider working with existing startups to build their capacity in this space. Taco Bell, for instance, partnered with DoorDash, a company that handles food orders and deliveries, for on-demand delivery of its products to customers.


In the age of sharing, companies need to better anticipate and resolve customer issues, boost their brand affinity and drive customer loyalty. Achieving all of these requires customer intelligence that’s rooted in ongoing engagement with the increasingly empowered customer. When customers are in charge and can easily avoid traditional methods of buying, you need to be in tune with the why of their behaviors and be nimble enough to make the necessary changes to your business.

To learn more about the new rules of the on-demand, sharing economy, watch the recording of our webinar here or check out the presentation deck below.

 Photo credit: acanyo (via Flickr, cropped)

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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