The collaborative economy, a standardized disruptive model?

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The collaborative economy refers to practices aimed at sharing and exchanging goods between individuals, imitating intermediaries between producer and consumer. By not only bringing new opportunities to consumers, it also changes their status in the supply and demand market from a simple applicant to an offer-applicant. The flourishing of new platforms such as Airbnb or Blablacar has forced a change in companies to better understand the business prospects of collaborative consumption but also the changes in purchasing practices. Collaborative consumer start-ups show that the lights are green and that these new practices are not just a fad.

Collaborative consumer start-ups that never stop seducing

In 2015, about 9,000 start-ups shared the global collaborative consumer market. In 10 years, the market outlook has increased twenty-fold. Based on the rise of digital platforms, these start-ups allow individuals to connect directly with each other, i.e. peer-to-peer. Relying on digital technology, the collaborative economy is of interest to internet giants as well as more conventional companies that find opportunities for development. In 2017, the Postal Bank acquired the KissKissBankBank platform. We can see that conventional actors are trying to adapt to the emergence of alternative actors offering different collaborative services.

The success of the AlloVoisins platform is a testament to this evolution of the supply market and demand in terms of alternative consumption of good. Indeed, created six years ago, AlloVoisins now has more than three million members in the country. This Nantes start-up promotes the social link between neighbourhoods and the city by proposing to improve the daily life of the French: troubleshooting, renting an object, works of all kinds. Its specificity is to base its business model solely on demand. It is on this same business model that collaborative initiatives are based: potential demand and underutilized assets.
The strong growth generated by a platform like AlloVoisins, 9% of which in New Aquitaine, is explained by the large area of our region which is sometimes marked by a lack of material resources, territories for which the development of collaborative services is a favourable breeding ground.

The trend towards standardization of the collaborative economy sector

However, if conventional actors scrutinize the evolutions of the players of collaborative consumption, they tend to diversify their offer, initially oriented peer-to-peer, towards offers offered by conventional actors. This is particularly the case with AlloVoisins, which has recently developed a positioning in which professionals can respond to specific requests from Neighbours, not just individuals. Indeed, initiated more than 10 years ago after the economic and financial crisis of 2008, the collaborative economy is no longer an emerging market. More than 75% of French people have already bought or sold a used item according to the Observatory of the Collaborative Economy. This trend is also intergenerational, as people aged 25 to 55 use these purchasing practices in the same proportion. This trend towards generalization may thus explain the normalization of the business model of start-ups in the collaborative economy.

An illustration of this trend towards generalization is in the B2B and B2C framework. From a B2B perspective, using sharing platforms can mean a company reducing its production costs. From a B2C perspective, the collaborative economy is also becoming an opportunity by allowing so-called conventional companies to sell more and diversify their range of services. Indeed, operational excellence and the added value generated by the customer experience are two drivers of generalization of this practice for both historical players and new competitors. This trend towards the generalization of the collaborative economy sector is even the result of the most well-known players in the collaborative economy. Airbnb, for example, employs professional photographers to showcase goods while Uber works as a wage for some of their suppliers.

If the business model of start-ups in the collaborative economy, mainly based on freemium, converges, as the development phases progress, with that of the more conventional players; they differ more in the vision of their business. Collaborative consumer companies are therefore seeking to promote a more economical, responsible and user-friendly way of consumption. Whether for local start-ups in the collaborative economy or giants of the sector, the fundamental trend is resolutely towards the standardization of services, a sign that the collaborative model is normalizing.

Justine ANGIBAUD

Sources:

“The collaborative economy, a new socio-economic model?”, Public Life, August 2018

Study “Issues and Perspectives of Collaborative Consumption,” Corporate Directorate, June 2015

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