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Not Just for Startups: Big Brands in the Sharing Economy

sharing economy

Startups and young companies are the driving forces behind the on-demand sharing economy, but that doesn’t mean big brands should watch it pass them by. Smart marketers are using partnerships to better tap into consumers’ on-demand desires. Whether your company is big or small, there’s something to be learned from these “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” strategies.

Let me paint the picture of a quintessential San Francisco day. I wake up and get dressed in an outfit from Le Tote, a service that lets you borrow and return clothes and accessories. I then catch an Uber to work, and later help a visiting friend pick an AirBnb to stay in. I won’t have time to pick up a prescription that’s ready, so with a few quick taps on my phone I arrange a TaskRabbit to do it for me. After work I use my ClassPass membership to try out a new yoga studio. When I get home, I get a text saying my laundry is on its way to my door from Washio (how are they so good at folding?), and before I go to bed I reserve a Zipcar for an upcoming weekend trip across the bridge.

Okay, so I work from home and that story may be a bit embellished, but it illustrates the power of today’s on-demand sharing economy nonetheless. With a valuation upwards of $110 billion, the market is booming. Startups may be the driving forces behind it, but if big brands want to succeed and stay relevant, they’ll want to get in on the action, too, and adapt their marketing approach.

A Shift in Consumer Behaviors

The sharing economy speaks to a shift in consumer behaviors – from seeking ownership to seeking experiences. Most companies in the sharing economy aren’t selling products, they’re selling better customer experiences through peer-to-peer marketplaces. Today’s consumers are after convenience, instant gratification and more complete, unique experiences in their day-to-day lives.

Big Brands Partnering with Startups

While many brands are still trying to wrap their heads around this shift, some innovative brands are already finding ways to add value and provide better customer experiences by partnering with startups in the sharing space. For example:

  • Starbucks teamed up with Postmates to use local logistics to deliver coffee and food within minutes. Pilots are set to begin later this year in Seattle and Manhattan.
  • Walgreens is helping sick people stay in bed and easily get cold medicine delivered to them through TaskRabbit.
  • The W Hotels in New York are using DesksNear.Me to provide chic workspaces to business guests.
  • Uber has partnered with several companies, including Home Depot to deliver Christmas trees, and Toyota and Ford to offer discounts to Uber drivers purchasing a car.
  • During Xfinity’s Watchathon Week, Comcast transformed select Airbnb properties into Games of Thrones scenes for a few lucky guests.

Expect to see more of these innovative partnerships in the near future. What can you do to give your customers that on-demand experience they’re looking for? Think convenience, consistency and uniqueness. This is what we believe will help brands thrive in this new era.

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