Since its launch in 2008, more than 4m people have used Airbnb—2.5m of them in 2012 alone. “It is the most prominent example of a huge new ‘sharing economy’, in which people rent beds, cars, boats and other assets directly from each other, co-ordinated via the internet,” says the Economist.
Without this sharing economy, people like Todd Cook wouldn’t be able to afford his expensive boating hobby. But with the help of a free-to-join boat rental marketplace called Boatbound, Todd is able to earn money to pay for slip fees at a St. Croix River marina, along with other expenses (Star Tribune).
The Sharing Economy + The Outdoor Industry = Experiences
According to the Outdoor Industry Organization, more than 140 million Americans make outdoor recreation a priority in their daily lives. But like Todd, not everyone can—or wants to—come up with the money to pay for boat expenses, large canvas tents, or the extra baggage fees for hauling ski gear across the country. They do, however, seek meaningful outdoor experiences, whether it be in their backyard or in the backcountry.
As Forbes points out, “Shoppers are looking to physical retailers to go beyond the transaction and provide richer experiences to the consumer.” This presents retailers that have embraced technology with great opportunities to expand their selling channels, services, and profits.
With an integrated Website and Cloud POS solution, retailers can offer more convenient rental services that meet the needs of omnichannel consumers who shop many channels and crave a consistent and seamless experience across all of them.
Without a doubt, the Internet is the principal vehicle driving the sharing economy—connecting people at extraordinary levels and facilitating peer-to-peer transactions.
“This network has empowered the sharing economy because communities can now easily discover who needs which resources, who already owns them, and how to connect those dots in a mutually beneficial transaction. Before the Internet, it would have been difficult to know that your neighbor down the road owned a car or a tent that she’d be happy for you to use. Today it’s pretty simple.”
~ Alyssa Ravasio, Hipcamp (via Star Tribune)
From skiers to surfers, the sharing community is making it possible for people of all walks of life to reduce barriers to the outdoors locally. Millennials are especially in tune with the sharing economy because they’ve grown up with it. Furthermore, anyone with a smartphone has access to renting outdoor gear.
According to Outdoorsy, “RV life is surging because the buyer has changed . . . people are spending less on material goods and more on experiences.” The bottom line, the company says, is that people are finding value in putting their dollars in experiences over stuff.
And since cell phones are a central part of life for today’s consumers, many of them will start their searches for these experiences on their smartphones.
Unfortunately, small businesses that are reluctant to embrace technology will miss out on potential rental profits. And believe it or not, many small businesses are still holding back:
“Even with an increasing use of software resources, small businesses still aren’t reaping all the benefits technology has to offer. According to a SAP-sponsored survey of global small businesses, most say that they are only at the “early stages” of digitally transforming their companies.”
~ Ad Age
The sharing community is a win-win for retailers and consumers alike. As Ravi Bapna of University of Minnesota states, “The sharing economy model provides more flexibility and reduces upfront capital for those . . . who are looking to rent . . . rather than buy. It’s changing how we do business.” (Star Tribune)
Creating a rental program that’s more aligned with the way today’s consumer wants to live means retailers need to have the right software that allows interested renters the luxury of signup up online—whether from their home computer or mobile device.
Brands that adopt the technology necessary to help consumers conveniently and easily rent the outdoor equipment they need for the outdoor activities they want to experience, will stand out from their competitors and enjoy another channel for boosting profits.
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