We've heard about the "sharing economy" for awhile now, most recently in an op-ed column about Airbnb, the online service that allows people to rent out their homes (or castles or yurts) to travelers. In this economy, consumers are radically changing the way they buy goods and services — and from whom.
As Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, wrote last week, the rise of Airbnb is fundamentally about trust. "Airbnb's real innovation is not online rentals," he argued. "It's 'trust.'"
What does this mean for digital marketers? Plenty. Trust has been a critical issue for brands in the relationship era, and smart companies recognize that their success hinges on their customers' trust and confidence, not just that their profile preferences will be respected but also that their favorite brands will deliver messages that are relevant, unobtrusive and highly personal. They also want to know that their opinions matter.
3 ways to earn customer trust
Airbnb — and other shared services — are at the forefront of this communal culture shift and the digital marketing strategies necessary to thrive. After all, their businesses rely almost exclusively on their customers. If nobody wants to rent her apartment for the weekend, there's no Airbnb.
At its core, marketing in the sharing economy (also known as "collaborative consumption" and the "peer economy") boils down to "transparency," explains Vivek Wagle, the head of brand strategy at Airbnb, who participated in a panel at Responsys Interact 2013 alongside Anne Raimondi of Taskrabbit, Gita Rebbapragada of Zipcar and moderator, Tomio Geron of Forbes. This means involving customers in business initiatives, opening up about company failures and giving consumers a sense of ownership.
Here's a closer look at what transparency in the relationship era means to Airbnb and two other leading sharing services, TaskRabbit and Zipcar.