This research report was prepared as part of our Experience Design (XD) course. The project involved selecting a service area to focus on, researching its context, and preparing a case study of a service operating in that area. The area our team focused on was the growing range of services in the ‘sharing economy’.
The Sharing Economy involves peer-to-peer (P2P) activity relating to “acquiring, providing or sharing access to goods and services that are facilitated by a community based on-line platform” (Radcliffe, 2017, 1). Alternative terms include collaborative consumption, the trust economy, peer-to-peer economy (pwc, 2015) and crowd-based capitalism (Sundararajan, 2016).
In principle, sharing platforms allow individuals or groups to make money by providing underused assets direct to other consumers, or to save money by renting or sharing assets instead of buying them. A provider can also be a consumer, and assets can include services (such as P2P loans or pet sitting) as well as physical things (such as cars, toys or garage space). Examples of sharing platforms include Airbnb (accommodation sharing) and Uber (ride sharing). These platforms act as intermediaries, connecting providers with consumers and providing a framework of processes and systems to support this interaction (Puschmann, 2016).
The sharing economy is growing rapidly. A report for the NSW Department of Finance, Services & Innovation showed revenue from key businesses in this sector growing at an average of 68%, from $1.6 billion in NSW in 2015 to $2.6 billion in 2016 (Deloitte, 2017).
User needs and motivations
People are motivated to participate in the sharing economy for altruistic or individualistic reasons—to be more sustainable (reducing consumption), to save money (reducing ownership of goods) or to make money (providing goods/services to others). They are also motivated by intrinsic factors such as enjoyment of collaborative activities, boost to personal reputation, and commitment to community (Hamari, 2016).
There are three main user groups in the sharing economy, each with different needs:
- Share platform operators: need to promote their service to consumers, attract and retain providers, manage their reputation, and run systems and processes to meet regulatory and business requirements
- Consumers: need to find sharing services based on interest area, location, lifestyle, attitude, personal relevance and reputation
- Providers: need to make money and/or gain satisfaction by sharing goods/services, need support and back-up from sharing platforms and a means to build their reputation or rating as a provider.
Because of the growth and diversity of sharing platforms, there is a growing need for people to find and choose relevant, trustworthy sharing services (whether as consumer or provider), and for share platform operators to be found by their target market (providers and consumers).
Policies and strategies
The sharing economy is disrupting traditional ways of doing business, introducing unregulated players into regulated markets, and providing ways for individuals to realise economic benefits as sharing providers or platform operators. “The rise of the sharing economy has forced traditional industries to adapt to survive, and has also challenged traditional tax laws to be reviewed.” (Deards, 2017, 249). Some of the challenges Deards refers to include taxation of providers, cross-border issues, difficulty of information gathering, employees versus contractors, the black economy, compliance and enforcement of industry regulations.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) now provides guidance for participants in the sharing economy (consumers, providers and platform operators) to explain their legal obligations under consumer law (ACCC, 2016).
This background of industry disruption and rapid growth provides a business opportunity for a service that helps people find, compare and use share platforms.
Case study: Sharemrkt.com
Sharemrkt.com is an online platform that aims to connect consumers and providers in the sharing economy. The service was launched on 17 November 2017 (Sharemrkt, 2017). The Sharemrkt website categorises, promotes and links to existing share platforms, acting as a service directory and comparator, connecting people to services they otherwise may not have known about. Sharemrkt also uses social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) to share news about sharing platform start-ups and tools, promote offers from sharing partners, and spread awareness of the benefits of collaboration in the sharing economy.
Although based from Barcelona in Spain and providing links to local consumers/providers, Sharemrkt includes sharing services relevant to a global user base. Sharemrkt’s founder Gina Farish states her objective is: “to connect the sharing ecosystem in our neighborhood and around the world” (Sharemrkt | About, n.d.). The focus of the service is on local or community-based share services rather than big players such as Uber or Airbnb, and in fact those two services are not listed on the website. In her blog post about how Sharemrkt started, Farish poses some questions Sharemrkt aims to answer: “How do we look for services we don’t even know exist? Aren’t people frustrated bouncing across apps? How can startups get traction and compete with the big guys?” (Farish, 2018).
Types of share services listed on Sharemrkt
The Sharemrkt website links to a wide variety of share services, from familiar models like accommodation and car sharing through to community libraries and non-profit swap/donation services. For each service listed, there is an overview page describing the service offered by the platform, with a link to its website and a section for user ratings and comments.
The services are grouped into categories, defined in terms of general user needs: Stay, Experience, Eat, Life & Style, Wellbeing, Pets, Community, Kids, Transport, Logistics, Work, Trust & Tools. Each category is colour-coded and has sub-categories to filter services further (for example the ‘Stay’ category includes Rent a Place, Rent a Room, Couchsurf, Homeswap, Home-Work exchange and Camping/Caravan/Off-Grid). Services can appear in more than one category or sub-category. Based on a count of listings in each category, there is a total of 332 listings (as at 15 Aug 2018). However, due to repetition of some services across categories, the number of unique services is lower than that total.
Table 1 Share platforms listed on the Sharemrkt website, in order of listings per category*
|Category||No. of listings||Example listings in this category|
|Work||50||https://www.bcnewt.com/ (co-working spaces)
https://fablabbcn.org/ (tools and technology)
|Transport||49||https://bikesbooking.com/ (bicycles and motorbikes)
https://www.drivy.es/ (car sharing)
https://www.transfertravel.com/ (travel tickets)
|Stay||39||https://casaversa.com/ (home exchange)
https://www.nightswapping.com/ (travel accommodation)
https://www.gamping.com/ (camping on private land)
|Experience||37||https://www.withlocals.com/ (local travel guides)
http://www.tripnparty.com/en/ (party with locals)
https://www.sofaconcerts.org/ (house concerts/gigs)
|Life & Style||36||https://www.chicfy.com/ (fashion exchange)
https://www.cooncert.com/en (concerts for music fans)
|Kids||28||https://nanny-line.com/ (nannies for families)
http://www.secondbaby.org/ (baby & maternity products)
|Logistics||24||https://www.eelp.com/ (personal assistants)
https://www.unnea.net/ (collaborate for bulk discounts)
https://www.piggybee.com/en/ (delivery via travellers)
|Eat||19||https://olioex.com/ (surplus food exchange)
https://sharing-kitchen.com/ (rent kitchens and food experts)
|Community||14||http://www.donaz.es/ (book exchange)
https://www.freecycle.org/ (give/receive free stuff)
|Trust & Tools||13||https://www.shareable.net/ (for the sharing community)
http://www.near-me.com/ (online tool for P2P commerce)
|Pets||12||https://gudog.com/ (dog sitting)
http://www.iamvo.com/ (pet sharing)
|Wellbeing||11||https://entrenar.me/ (personal trainers/centres)
http://ouiwin.com/ (healthcare support)
|Total||332||(all listings, some of which are in multiple categories)|
* (as at 15 August, 2018)
The Sharemrkt website provides the following ways for users to find share services:
- Select a service from the items featured under a category on the home page. Clicking the circular icon takes a user to the service listing page, while clicking the web address links directly to the service’s website, opening in a new browser window (see Figure 2)
- Select the ‘view all’ link beside a homepage category, then select a service (as described in option 1) OR use the top ‘Filter’ menu to deselect one or more sub-categories (see Figure 3)
- Click the search icon, which opens a panel with a search panel and filtering options. From here, users can type search terms, select a category, apply filters or browse ideas (see Figure 4).
Service listing pages
Each listing page displays basic details: a photograph, logo, web link, social media share icons, subcategory, short text description, ‘like’ icon and user reviews.
A user must sign up in order to leave a review or ‘like’ a service. However at the time of writing there was only one review showing on any of the listings, and no more than 10 had been ‘liked’ (as indicated by the heart icons).
Encouraging service providers
The website provides a means for share services to join Sharemrkt, or to claim an existing listing on the site. This suggests that some of the listings on the site have been populated by the site owner rather than by the sharing services themselves.
In addition to providing listings of share services, Sharemrkt has a separate blog that aims to promote the concept of collaborative sharing. The blog includes an option to donate to a crowd fund to support the sharing ecosystem, which suggests that Sharemrkt is a self-funded or non-profit business run on a minimal budget. To confirm this, the business model behind Sharemrkt would need to be investigated further.
Analysis of the XD solution
Sharemrkt is an excellent concept, but I feel it could be much improved by adding more detail about the services listed, stimulating genuine user reviews, and improving the navigation to focus on user needs and motivations.
Some of the good points of the Sharemrkt online service are:
- Friendly look and feel with lively colours and strong brand, so it feels like a collaborative community site.
- Wide variety of share services listed, with focus on local (and some global) services.
- Modular, responsive layout with style consistency across listings.
- Potentially useful filters and subcategories to help users find relevant listings.
Negative points include:
- The categories are limiting and it can be difficult to guess what is in each one.
- Search function and filters are not obvious (search icon suggests keyword search but also includes lifestyle ideas and filters not available via other means).
- Service listings have minimal descriptive content or other information to aid comparison.
- Providing direct web links on panels means users may miss listing pages completely.
- Very few ‘likes’ or user reviews, so users cannot compare services in this way.
- User review grading includes only positive options, which would affect ratings and suggest reviews are not genuine.
- Some items that look clickable aren’t (for example images in service panels on category pages).
- Special offers from providers are not obvious and only one is highlighted on the home page.
- Make it easier for users to find services relevant to them by including a search and filter option easily accessible on the home page, with prompts for lifestyle factors such as travelling, saving money, family life, etc.
- Include lifestyle tags on listings, to encourage users to explore laterally (as well as logically by category) and add navigation from listings to category pages.
- Encourage service providers to supply more content on listing pages, such as locations covered, transaction types offered, date established, specific services offered and an image gallery.
- Add a special offers section, so users can find all latest offers in one place.
- Highlight the latest service added to Sharemrkt (or profile a featured service each day/week), to introduce an element of change on the homepage.
Improvements such as these could help Sharemrkt better meet the needs identified by its founder: “It was clear we needed a single marketplace. One where you can find anything, anywhere, it’s easy, and trusted. ” (Farish, 2018)
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. (2016, November 03). ACCC releases guidance to assist share economy platform operators, buyers and sellers. Retrieved August 14, 2018, from https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/accc-releases-guidance-to-assist-share-economy-platform-operators-buyers-and-sellers
- Deards, Kristen. The sharing economy [online]. Tax Specialist, Vol. 20, No. 5, Jun 2017: 249-263. Availability: < https://search-informit-com-au.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/fullText;dn=918417597076613;res=IELBUS> ISSN: 1329-1203. [cited 10 Aug 18].
- Deloitte. (2016). Developments in the Collaborative Economy in NSW (p. 4, Rep.). Sydney, NSW: Deloitte Access Economics. Retrieved August 14, 2018, from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/au/Documents/Economics/deloitte-au-economics-nsw-collaborative economy-developments-030417.pdf
- Farish, G. (2018, March 25). How Sharemrkt Started. Retrieved August 15, 2018, from https://www.moresharingmorelove.com/news/manage-your-blog-from-your-live-site
- Hamari, J. , Sjöklint, M. and Ukkonen, A. (2016), The sharing economy: Why people participate in collaborative consumption. J Assn Inf Sci Tec, 67: 2047-2059. doi:10.1002/asi.23552
- Puschmann, T., & Alt, R. (2016). Sharing economy. Business & Information Systems Engineering, 58(1), 96-98. doi: http://dx.doi.org.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/10.1007/s12599-015-0420-2
- Pwc. (2015). The Sharing Economy (Consumer Intelligence Series, p. 14, Rep.). Delaware: PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Retrieved August 17, 2018, from https://www.pwc.com/us/en/industry/entertainment-media/publications/consumer-intelligence-series/assets/pwc-cis-sharing-economy.pdf.
- Radcliffe, B. (2017, December 14). Sharing Economy. Retrieved August 6, 2018, from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sharing-economy.asp
- Sharemrkt. (2017, November 17). Count down at midnight and Sharemrkt is LIVE!! What a party @OuiShare_es #OSfestBCN pic.twitter.com/zFhIhpIbl7. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/sharemrkt/status/931381909946617856
- Sharemrkt | About. (n.d.). Retrieved August 6, 2018, from https://sharemrkt.com/about
- Sharemrkt | moresharingmorelove. (n.d.). Retrieved August 15, 2018, from https://www.moresharingmorelove.com/
- Sundararajan, Arun. (© 2016). The sharing economy: the end of employment and the rise of crowd-based capitalism. [Books24x7 version] Available from http://common.books24x7.com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/toc.aspx?bookid=135367.