When we look back at important dates when consumer behaviour changed, we may well say that 2015 was the year that the sharing economy truly arrived in Australia.
Over 30 new start-ups were created in this sector, ranging from valuable art marketplaces to platforms for people to trade space and make a second income.
Although the market is currently dominated by peer-to-peer sharing, we are increasingly seeing the next generation of marketplaces offering business-to-peer (B2P) and business-to-business (B2B) solutions.
In an increasingly competitive economy, sharing resources allows businesses to pay only for what they need, turning fixed costs like rent and wages into variable costs, or alternatively to generate stronger returns on assets through higher utilisation.
For any small business, there are a number of reasons to embrace and actively engage in collaborative consumption at a B2P and B2B level.
It can enable you to reach a captive customer base and lower direct acquisition costs.
Marketplace sharing economy platforms are designed to match supply with demand, bypassing the marketing 'leakage' to acquire customers.
Lowering acquisition costs provides a better margin for suppliers, which translates into lower prices for businesses.
One of the key value propositions that sharing platforms provide is the management and guarantee of payment services bundled into a single monthly payment.
For businesses using B2P platforms, the operational requirements are low-touch and low-effort, and generate a passive income stream to support other parts of the business.
For older SMEs that missed the dotcom boom, online marketplaces are a great way to build or enhance an online presence at a lower cost, without having to build your own app.
Sharing platforms are the modern-day classifieds or Yellow Pages, and have the halo effect of creating brand awareness in front of a captive target audience, which is invaluable for your business.
Here are some ways SMEs can embrace the sharing economy and save money:
Save money on rent
Spacer provides a marketplace where you can find spare space.
We’ve seen a rise in SME owners using Spacer to rent out local garages, storage cages and even people’s attics to store items they need to keep but don’t use on a day-to-day basis.
Outsource specific tasks
Running a small business by yourself is hard and there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done.
You can list a specialist job on marketplaces such as TaskRabbit, set your price and find someone immediately to complete a task you need done.
If the job is more technically specific, you can always go to a specialist provider such as 99designs or Freelancer.
Become a specialist service provider
As the sharing economy grows, so too does the requirement for professional services and products to support the sector.
As with any emerging sector, the number of specialist technology, software as a service (SaaS), insurance and legal providers pitching themselves as ‘sharing economy’ experts is increasing, and opportunities abound in this area.
Register yourself as a service provider on The Wholesome Dollar to access industry participants.
Find an office or desk short-term
If you run a small business and need a mobile desk or office solution for a day, there are a number of rental options available on websites such as Creative Spaces and Desks Near Me that can provide short-term working space solutions, giving you the flexibility of moving around and meet other business owners.
Michael Rosenbaum is the founder and CEO of Spacer, a storage provider.