Sharing Economy - blessing of the digital society?
Chances and risks
3 September, 2021 by
Sharing Economy - blessing of the digital society?
manaTec GmbH, Sophia Grünig


In the last blog post on the topic "Sharing Economy – blessing of the digital society?“ , the concept of the sharing economy and its basic features as well as a brief outline of its origins and development were examined in more detail.

The various forms of this consumption concept are becoming increasingly popular and it is impossible to imagine our society without them.

If we look at well-known companies that facilitate sharing, the dimensions can be somewhat imagined: Uber, which provides ride-sharing services, is present in over 50 countries and posted annual revenues of $13 billion in 2019 - up from $100 million in 2013.

Similarly, Airbnb has seen annual revenue growth from $250 million in 2013 to $4.8 billion in 2019 and is present in over 200 countries worldwide.

Rapidly advancing digitization and connectivity have given this sharing economy a new coat of paint and provided new, unprecedented reach as well as commercialization opportunities.

Die Wirtschaft des Teilens und deren Konsumformen bieten Chancen und Risiken.
Die Wirtschaft des Teilens und deren Konsumformen bieten Chancen und Risiken.

The saying "Sharing is caring" paints a positive picture of sharing and using - but what other aspects need to be considered, what opportunities and risks lie behind the far-reaching sharing economy?

If you take a survey by the management consultancy PwC into account, the positive image of the sharing economy becomes clear - more than half of those surveyed say they already use sharing services and as many as 70 percent see them more positively than conventional companies. The American sociologist and advisor to the EU Commission, Jeremy Rifkin, is also convinced of the sharing economy and sees it as an opportunity to build a "more social world community" in which we own things together and the importance of our own big profits shrinks. Whether or not one shares the sociologist's almost euphoric opinion, there is no denying that forms of the sharing economy offer advantages and opportunities for both businesses and private users. But it is also important to consider the supposedly hidden risks.

One major advantage for users of the sharing economy is clearly pricing - goods and services offered are usually significantly cheaper than conventional alternatives. Buying or renting used goods is significantly cheaper than buying new, and using intermediately rented apartments is equally cheaper than booking a hotel. The high level of user-friendliness and mobile accessibility of platforms also enables time-saving, efficient and uncomplicated use of products and is therefore one of the advantages. If we consider the increasingly relevant social issue of environmental protection, the sharing economy can also score points here, because joint use and reuse conserves resources and nature. However, the easy accessibility and low pricing can also lead to an increase in consumption, so that the environmental protection aspect is questionable again.

With or through the possibilities of the sharing economy, new opportunities for earning money arise both for providers of the platforms and for sellers, which appear simple for career changers because no training is required. However, these new earning opportunities are often accompanied by disadvantages under labor law. For example, drivers of transport services are not employed on a permanent basis, but work on a freelance or self-employed basis. Minimum wage regulations and protection against dismissal do not apply here.

However, companies also benefit from the sharing economy, as it offers new opportunities to serve fields and niches of the market by expanding business models, reaching end customers and ultimately gaining new opportunities to earn money. Established industries, however, get new competition and can be pushed out of the market. Another advantage for companies is lower personnel and space costs associated with the use of efficient technologies to convey goods, services and information. However, there are costs associated with developing and maintaining software and hardware. The ability to collect customer data through online interaction is also advantageous and profitable for companies, as this makes it easier, for example, to tailor products to customer preferences. However, these are also changing - forms of consumption are creating a new expectation of quality and longevity - so that one-off products are becoming less attractive and affected companies are having to adapt to this and, if necessary, reorient or restructure. Users in particular should also be concerned with the collection of a wide range of data and its impact on their privacy. The more networked our society becomes, the more important it is to be informed and aware of what information is being collected and also passed on.

Although the original motivation, as already highlighted in the last blog, is positive in nature and many advantages and opportunities of the sharing economy are apparent, it also brings with it disadvantages and risks - both for end users and for companies. Particularly critical is the increasing commercialization. Many sharing economy platforms are accused of converting originally free forms of consumption into a paid model for selfish profit goals. Nevertheless, these forms of consumption are establishing themselves, providing a breath of fresh air and encouraging us to reflect on our consumption behavior. Whether or not the sharing economy can be seen as a boon to our digitalized society is something that we must evaluate for ourselves.


Sources: www.pergenz.de, www.bmwi.de, www.zeit.de, www.statista.de, www.ionos.de, www.monami.hs-mittweida.de


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