It could take a decade for the sharing economy to truly thrive in the UK, according to the country's industry trade body.
The comments came from Debbie Wosskow, the head of the recently-created Sharing Economy UK (SEUK) group. The trade association represents 19 sharing economy companies and exists to "ensure best practice and act as a single voice for the industry."
Wosskow compared the still-nascent industry to the trajectory of online travel agencies and the 20 years that it took for those entities to truly hit their strides, for example how Microsoft created Expedia.
If you look at the early days of online travel, those operators were very separate from traditional players. Now, big operators wouldn’t dream of not having an online presence.
I want to see how big business will respond to the sharing economy. How long will it take to see true integration and assimilation? About a decade.
However, one core difference between now and then is the consumer's understanding of the internet and the widespread ubiquity of connected smartphones. There's far less work that needs to be done to get the consumer to trust an online transaction. That's one of the key reasons behind the sharing economy's rapid rise to prominence worldwide.
SEUK is attempting to build trust into the industry by offering credentials to companies that meet the following qualification:
The sharing economy involves using internet technologies to connect distributed groups of people and organisations to make better use of goods, skills, services, capital and spaces, sharing access and so reducing the need for ownership.
By banding together, the hope is also that these companies can finally fix one of the greatest challenges outside of trust: getting insurance for their products.
One important question remains when it comes to Big Business embracing the sharing economy: how will it intergrate the sharing economy business model into its already existing structures? For those businesses with heavy investments in capital-intensive assets, there will be great reluctance to reduce the return on those investments.
On the flip side, having more customers willing to use these assets at a lower price can also enhance the lifetime value of said investments. This integration and understanding of this emerging sector is essential to all businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry considering what this new sector means to their specific businesses.
For many, this means testing the waters with investments in the sector — such as Hyatt's recent investment in Onefinestay. Another example is BMW's push into electric car sharing with its new DriveNow service that provides access to all-electric BMWs throughout San Francisco.
This is only the beginning, as the sectors begin to blur. It's surely only a matter of time before we see the first Airbnb hotel populated by full-time residents who receive rent breaks for hosting guests!
NB: Time image courtesy Shutterstock.