The Future is P2P
In these writings, I often touch upon a specific disruptor that will influence almost every business in one way or another – P2P economy or sharing economy.
Of course, its poster boy is Uber and its ride-sharing service that is looking to revolutionize not just taxi services but also transport in general. But Uber is just a single and most visible example of a completely new business model that is based on sharing and enabled by technology. Similar approaches are also popping up in other industries and not all are as disruptive to an entire industry like Uber. Some are just making lives easier for some people or are creating a better user experience that delights or adds value to interactions.
However, it’s services like Uber or Airbnb that are creating new expectations. Consumers now expect other brands to follow in their wake and unlock services, resources, knowledge of their peers. Customers are now looking for services and products that make them a part of a larger social group. Even more than that – P2P services are increasingly a way for people to make money by connecting customers to other people who provide the services or products they want. This is why sharing economy is so powerful – it doesn’t just represent a better service; it creates the platform for people to benefit either by making money or by increasing their social prestige or in another way.
All of this sounds very futuristic, so I’ d like to give a couple of examples of new and traditional companies using P2P to create value and win. Airbnb is already a P2P company through and through. However, they’ve created a program that allows citizens of San Francisco to sign up as guides for people staying in Airbnb facilities to drive better satisfaction. Dutch airline KLM did a similar thing - Layover with a Local offers KLM travelers with a layover of 6 hours or more at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol the opportunity to turn this transfer into a trip. These customers will be guided by a local person and shown Amsterdam and its attractions.
Chevrolet Brazil enabled its potential customers a way to chat with existing Chevrolet customers about their experience. Cosmetic company CoverFX encouraged people to upload selfies while using their products. Once online customers click a product, they are shown selfies with actual people wearing the product, making it much easier to buy. HP Brazil created a fascinating program in which HP printer owners can enroll in the program and have their printers automatically print a missing person poster when someone in their vicinity goes missing.
There are also stories of Amazon and postal services enabling ordinary people to deliver their products or mail and make money. But the real future probably lies in new companies that will be based on P2P economy completely – Mapkin in the USA, for example, will provide more useful crowdsourced directions, based on visual cues & local hints. There are others coming and there is no doubt that these companies will shape the future not just of their services and products but also of work – more and more people will have the opportunity to participate in such networks to make money.
Of course, all of these trends create new challenges. To bring up Uber again, we can see the resentment from existing taxi companies and issues regarding safety and security of passengers in a crowdsourced world. Also, there are concerns that this micro-jobs will replace steady employment and create a new class of people without long-term security. All of these challenges will need to be addressed both by national governments as well as private companies and of course, users. However, none of this will slow down the march of P2P business models that will be the norm rather than the exception.