How can industry be included in the sharing economy?

With the success of innovative ventures such as the carpooling platform BlaBlaCar, and the shared office environment WorkAround, the sharing economy is turning into a booming business for B2C. The concept of sharing  goods and services is perfectly suited to consumers who would rather handle their business themselves than go through a middleman. But how would it be possible to get the B2B sector involved?

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment estimated that the sharing economy in Finland will be worth (TEM 9/2017) 1.3 billion euros in 2020. Based on the report, the biggest sectors are crowdfunding, peer-to-peer mobility and car sharing, and household management and other micro tasks.  These calculations are strongly based on the current situation in which the sharing economy is mainly B2C business. However, there is one area that seems to be lagging behind B2C when it comes to the sharing economy: B2B.

 

Sharing economy refers to a common or communal economy that includes the production, consumption and use of commodities. It is based on temporary access instead of ownership, by utilizing the development of technology and the popularity of social media, such as sharing platforms. Since the B2B sector does not function on the same peer-to-peer business model that suits B2C, it makes sense that this sector has not yet seen as much success in the sharing economy. Different drivers, such as the economic situation, facilitate the need to share. Furthermore, change of mindset and existing practices in companies towards the sharing economy require progress, which can be challenging and take time. However, as technology develops, the B2B sector is looking to evolve in a way that will also allow it to partake in the lucrative sharing economy. The long-term vision is that current industrial value networks will evolve into business ecosystems in which the resources of individual companies can be shared on demand, making the network more responsive and efficient.

Platforms as enablers

The platforms are enablers for the B2B sharing economy. New business rules of the platform economy include generating network value, enabling of scale-up, and asymmetric competition in which companies pursue market opportunities with different resources and approaches. The ideal platform ecosystem in the B2B sharing economy includes 1) external resource orchestration instead of controlling internal resources, 2) external interactions between producers and customers instead of internal optimization, and 3) focusing on ecosystem value instead of on individual customers. The sharing business models are often triadic models consisting of a service enabler (platform), a service provider (supply / owner) and the customer (demand / seeker).

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Unique business models that maximize the utilization of idle assets differentiate the sharing economy from traditional business models. Most sharing economy businesses use online platforms or applications for collecting and sharing real-time data, and maximizing the use of assets. Based on the platform guidelines, digital leaders design and optimize platform ecosystems that scale exponentially without incurring the diminishing returns typically associated with traditional business models. The shift towards sharing economy business models is a big step for traditional companies, and new knowledge is needed to advance the transformation.

Benefits and challenges in the B2B sharing economy

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SHARE -research project

B2B sharing economy in the industrial context is researched in the SHARE -research project. The aim of the project is to create and demonstrate a digital sharing platform concept for a circular economy business ecosystem in which collaborating industrial organizations can easily co-innovate and share knowledge, production capacity, resources, services and logistic networks through interoperable systems, connected intelligent objects and blockchain technology. We are designing a set of rapid experimentations and initial solution designs for a sharing economy platform, testing and analyzing the designed solutions and analyzing in-depth sharing economy experiments. We are also organizing a series of workshops for advancing sharing economy knowledge and solutions, and analyzing business potential opportunities and business models.

For more information, please visit: www.vtt.fi/share

Salla Paajanen
Research Scientist, VTT
salla.paajanen(a)vtt.fi
Twitter: @PaajanenSalla

Anna Aminoff
Senior Scientist, VTT
anna.aminoff(a)vtt.fi
Twitter: @AminoffAnna

Maria Antikainen
Senior Scientist, VTT
maria.antikainen(a)vtt.fi
Twitter: @MariaAntikainen

This is the first text of a blog series addressing topics related to the SHARE -research project.

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