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App Development For The Sharing Economy

| December 29, 2020

Smartphones have enjoyed a greater market share than PCs for several years now. The rapid rise of these new, fully mobile personal computers has likewise given us the rapid rise of the app, and therefore, the app sharing economy.

As you enter this market, or seek to extend your presence with additional apps and related services, the question quickly becomes: what should your app do? What will make your app thrive? Consider developing an app that leverages one of the fastest growing economic trends around the world: the sharing economy.

Sharing economy apps have significantly grown in popularity over the course of the last decade. It’s also fairly easy to understand the appeal of sharing economy platforms.

You need a car, but probably not all the time. You need a drill for home repair, but for only a specific task. You have an empty room in your house and someone needs a room for the weekend. The “sharing economy” enables people to maximize their assets and minimize their sunk costs.

According to the Huffington Post:

“The premise (of the sharing economy) is simply that access is more important than ownership. The appeal works on many levels – cutting down on costs, adding value and becoming part of a community that is connected through sharing resources. The desire to kick back against the systems and cultures of old that caused a global recession also plays its part in the movement towards cutting out the corporate middleman in the redistribution of ‘stuff’.

Smartphones, the mobile web, real-time notifications, social media and personalized recommendations enable strangers  to rent or “share” a product or service. Companies such as AirBNB, Zipcar, TaskRabbit and others are examples of the sharing economy. Zipcar, for example, is a car sharing company. Members can reserve cars for days, for hours, for a single trip. Last month, Zipcar proved so successful that Avis purchased the company for $500 million.

FastCompany considers the sharing economy to be on par with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution:

“Spawned by a confluence of the economic crisis, environmental concerns, and the maturation of the social web, an entirely new generation of businesses is popping up. They enable the sharing of cars, clothes, couches, apartments, tools, meals, and even skills.

The basic characteristic of these you-name-it sharing marketplaces is that they extract value out of the stuff we already have. Many of these sites depend on millennials disenchanted by the housing bubble and the banking crisis, or uninterested in traditional icons of success such as house or auto ownership.”

Sharing economy trends also show no signs of slowing. According to one analysis, the sharing economy’s market value is expected to reach $335 billion in 2025. In 2014, it was merely worth $14 billon.

According to Forbes, “over the past four years at least 100 companies have sprouted up to offer owners a tiny income stream out of dozens of types of physical assets, without needing to buy anything themselves. The sharing economy is a real trend.”

That same analysis also points out that you’re not necessarily facing as much competition as you might expect if you decide to release your own sharing economy app. The cost for users to switch from one sharing economy platform to another is typically very low. Thus, it’s difficult for a single company to monopolize one area of the sharing economy. 

Sharing Means Caring (and Opportunity)

That’s a critical aspect of the sharing economy: not just “sharing” of goods and services, but sharing of information — about the product, its availability, reliability, reviews from previous users, complaints and recommendations. These must all become part of your app.

Luckily, the potential is boundless. “Green” site, TreeHugger noted that the sharing economy is now mainstream:

“The sharing concept has created markets out of things that wouldn’t have been considered monetizable assets before. A few dozen square feet in a driveway can now produce income via Parking Panda. A pooch-friendly room in your house is suddenly a pet penthouse via DogVacay. On Rentoid, an outdoorsy type with a newborn who suddenly notices her camping tent never gets used can rent it out at $10 a day to a city slicker who’d otherwise have to buy one. On SnapGoods, a drill lying fallow in a garage can become a $10-a-day income source from a homeowner who just needs to put up some quick drywall. On Liquid, an unused bicycle becomes a way for a traveler to cheaply get around while visiting town for $20 a day.”

There are numerous examples to seek inspiration from. Start-up, Lyft, lets car owners offer a ride-sharing service.  Getaround offers a similar service. TaskRabbit makes it easy for people to offer their time and talents for local services. Boatbound connects boat owners with those who want to rent.

Newer examples include JustPark, which allows owners of private parking spaces share them with drivers in busy cities. Sharing economy platforms can even help people share their unique skills and knowledge. For instance, with Vayable, users can book private tours with local experts when they travel to unfamiliar destinations. One unique sharing economy app, Leftoverswap, even lets users share their leftovers with hungry people nearby.

The sharing economy is a movement, a lifestyle, a response to over-consumption — and an amazing opportunity for app developers.

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