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Do We Really Trust the Sharing Economy?

Do We Really Trust the Sharing Economy? Do We Really Trust the Sharing Economy? Do We Really Trust the Sharing Economy?
09/9/15
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by Geetu Bedi
The sharing economy continues to have a meaningful impact on our lives. By leveraging underutilized assets to provide access in a more economical way, it has created value for its participating entrepreneurs and consumers alike. It has also dramatically changed the way we behave as we embrace this new economy: from jumping into cars of people we don’t know on Uber and Lyft, to using the bedrooms or homes of complete strangers on Airbnb and Homeaway, to buying handmade goods from unknown artisans on Etsy, the sharing economy has engendered a cultural shift.

So let’s take a look at what people think of some of the leading brands in today’s sharing economy. On the whole, they find them Unique and Innovative. By using well-thought out and curated technological interfaces, these companies have brought a new level of access to today’s consumer. If we were to examine the top 5 brand attributes of 3 of these sharing economy brands – Etsy, Airbnb, and Uber - we would see that all three brands share a very similar brand persona.

Sharing Economy Attributes

The attributes above are the ones that typically drive high brand differentiation, something that all three of these brands own:

 

sharing economy 2

Similar to the debut of online shopping about 15 years ago, people are excited by the convenience and access offered, but have to overcome mental obstacles around trust and security issues. Although the sharing economy by definition is based on the notion of trust, since renters and owners are only connected by a technological interface and little institutionalized infrastructure, brand data on these leading companies shows that they have their work cut out for them when it comes to perceptions around customer service-related attributes including: Trust, Reliable, Cares for Customers, Helpful, Friendly and Straightforward. Here’s a look at two leaders - Uber and Airbnb:

Sharing Economy Attributes vs Category Average


When we examine Airbnb and Uber along each attribute and compare their scores to the average score of all the brands that compete in their respective categories, we find that while consumers find these brands helpful, as they provide an access consumers did not have before, they still find them less Trustworthy, Reliable, Friendly, Straightforward and Caring for Customers as compared to the average competition.

That said, these brands are taking steps to improve performance on many of these customer service dimensions.  For example, Airbnb now assigns each reservation a “trust score”.  Each step of the booking process — reservation, payment, communication between host and guest, and review — takes place through Airbnb’s platform. The company uses several new safety provisions and has set up a Trust and Safety division.  Meanwhile, Uber uses its reviews to ensure that drivers with consistently poor reviews are removed from the system. However, the company still faces criticism and bad press regarding its driver screening process.

These companies, though pioneers, are still young. They are providing a service and an access that are both novel and helpful to consumers. But in order for these brands to grow and appeal to audiences beyond Millennials (representing the greatest number of entrepreneurs and consumers serviced by the sharing economy), these brands will need to build a more robust customer service focus facilitated by organizational systems and cultures that inspire trust.  After all, every sharing economy player is ultimately foremost in the business of trust.

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