With the news that Uber just released its own API, it seems as if the mobile sharing economy is poised to make its jump into the mainstream. As it is lending its services to apps that have traditionally been used for chatting, planning, and even hospitality, we’ll likely be seeing a lot more Uber integration as we go about our daily lives.
As Uber and the mobile sharing economy continue to grow in popularity, their successes and implications become more intriguing. The fact that Uber and its contemporaries have, in a relatively short amount of time, managed to revolutionize the transportation industry is no small feat.
So what can this latest mobile trend teach the enterprise? As more and more companies attempt to become the “Uber of” their own respective industries, here’s a list of five things that every business can learn from the mobile sharing economy.
1. Things Can Always Be More Efficient – and Less Expensive
Steve Jobs once made the assertion that consumers “don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” While the sentiment doesn’t hold true for every business, it’s a cornerstone of innovative thought. Before Uber, who knew that there was so much room for growth in the taxi industry?
When Uber came to the scene with its promise of more convenient transportation, it was easy to place the app in the same bucket as any other attempted disruptors: Legitimate concepts whose real-world clout was difficult to predict. But with its success, Uber has shown that things can always be more convenient, a fact that has already picked up tons of steam within its own sphere.
By implementing its own peer-to-peer ridesharing system, Uber competitor Lyft took a leap of faith, which eventually established them as a cheaper alternative.
2. Ownership Is Overrated
“Uber is a company that owns nothing.”
In its recent series about the mobile sharing economy, Re/Code offered a wealth of fantastic insights about the recent sharing trend in mobile commerce, but this idea – that Uber doesn’t actually own stuff – stands out among the rest. On its surface, the concept seems unremarkable. After all, businesses have long derived value from “cutting the middleman.”
What sets Uber apart is the way it has harnessed the ubiquity of the mobile device to transform transportation from a capital issue to a logistics issue. By tapping into the ability to connect people via mobile devices, the company was able to circumvent the issue of creating those services themselves. While it’s a big jump from physical capital to the sharing economy, there is a wealth of opportunity within that space which still has yet to be explored.
3. The Workforce Is Evolving – for Better or Worse
Perhaps the mobile sharing economy’s biggest impact has been in the job market. According to its website, Uber is currently hiring 20,000 new drivers per month. And same-day delivery services like WunWun and Postmates are using bike messengers to transport objects at blazing speeds. The mobile sharing economy is creating some huge waves in the workforce, and it’s important to see where these employment patterns are succeeding and failing.
Instead of freelance or full-time workers, companies like Lyft are employing “fractional” workers, who act as independent contractors. They own their own bikes and cars, and they decide when they’d like to take on shifts.
While this type of employment allows for blazing-fast deliveries and more streamlined services, it also raises a host of brand-new issues. Who, for instance, is at fault if an Uber driver hits a pedestrian? Are bike messengers covered if they get into an accident while on the job?
As the first wave of businesses in the sharing economy continues to deal with these issues, it’s a good idea to measure the pros and cons of this fractional employment so that if you ever decide to make a jump into this type of business, you know what you’re dealing with.
4. The Sharing Economy Can Give You Some Distinct Advantages Over the Big Players in the Field
While a company like Amazon seems almost untouchable when it comes to delivery logistics and efficiency, there are still many areas where even the most established online behemoths can be beaten. Amazon’s “Amazon Fresh” service, which delivers perishable foods locally, relies on its capital and is currently only available on the West Coast. In the mobile sharing economy, this is a weakness that can be taken advantage of.
Whereas new start-ups can hire fractional workers like bike messengers and independent drivers, Amazon already has some deeply established expectations to accompany their delivery services. A service like WunWun or Postmates can easily get away with making same-day deliveries via bike messenger, but Amazon’s shareholders and customers might not take kindly to the idea.
5. Consumers Are Down for Almost Anything – If They Trust Your Services
Whenever a deal sounds too good to be true, there are always a few initial questions that every consumer asks right off the bat.
“What’s the catch?” is typically the first of these questions, and many consumers decide whether or not they like a service based on the answer to this question alone.
While it’s important to think about whether your company’s “catch” might put off too many customers, the sharing economy has shown that the rabbit hole goes much deeper than we might have originally thought. Who knew that Lyft – an app which ostensibly allows strangers to ride with strangers – could be such a huge hit?
As it turns out, the catch doesn’t really matter all that much – provided you can develop enough customer trust.
When I first heard about Lyft, I was extremely skeptical of the driver situation. How could I possibly know whether the person behind the wheel was trustworthy? But a quick look at Lyft’s rigorous background checks and driver requirements was all it took to sway me on the legitimacy of the service. I find that the same holds true for most people I’ve introduced to the app.
Over the short span of its existence, the mobile sharing economy has already caused drastic changes to the service landscape. Within this new mobile-driven framework, there is a whole world of opportunity open to any innovative businesses that are brave enough to take on the risks that this fledgling economy presents. But if businesses can adopt some of the experience of companies like Uber and Lyft, they’ll find themselves well-prepared to enter the fray.
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