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September 14 2017

Michelle Miroforidis: The access economy is changing the way we do business

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Once upon a time when we needed or wanted something, we bought it. Now we can simply access what we need or want when we need it. The access economy isn’t anything new, it’s been slowly creeping into various facets of our lives since the global financial crisis when the frugal mindset was ripe.

Add to that new mindset the rapid development of technology and you have the method and ingredients needed to creatively challenge established modes of serving ones needs.

To “own something” in the traditional sense is becoming less important, because what’s scarce has changed. Technology and the internet enables us to find practically anything we need, at any time. Because of this, the balance between supply and demand is in a state of constant disruption. To understand such shifts, we need to assess what people currently prefer to access in order to predict what they’re likely to access in the future.

Some of the more established access services include music streaming and SVOD services, peer to peer home rental through Airbnb and car-sharing services such as Uber, GoGet and Car Next Door.

Collectively they are the poster child of the access economy – promising a democratisation of consumerism, a world where the experience of consuming goods and services is convenient, localised, timely, more authentic experiences in the case of Airbnb and above all, not constrained by ones purchasing power.

Other emerging access services have been dominated by people who now regard the things they own as an opportunity to make an additional buck on the side or simply enable others to access things they don’t have the means to own.

Designer fashion lovers now have the option to recover money and potentially storage space by sharing their clothes with those who are willing to pay a marginal price for the experience of wearing designer fashion for a special event.

HUMM, an app created by Melbourne-born founder Mackenzie Casey, taps into this peer to peer sharing trend and enables women in Sydney, Melbourne and New York to rent their high-end fashion closet to other women.

Dog lovers living in city dwellings without the outdoor space required to nurture a furry pet can now offer their love and time to dog owners in exchange for the experience of having a pet for a brief period of time. Dogshare, borrowmypooch and Pawshake match local dog lovers with local dogs for walking, dog sitting, doggy day care and pooch play dates.

An equally sought-after commodity in Australia, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, is parking. Sydney-siders can now rent unused parking bays in buildings around them at rates up-to 40% less than regular parking stations through the app Divvy. Parkhound extends the service Australia-wide and offers parking through local residents also. The monetisation of previously remnant space or items is inherent in most access services.

What’s next? Two key themes glean some insight into what people are likely to access in the future:

Seldom-used or specialised items in high demand or with a high-cost of entry.

Sought-after things people don’t have the financial or physical means to own and store.

Think about household appliances such as a cake mixer or pasta maker – a good one costs a lot and they’re only used occasionally, unless you’re a baker, pasta-phene or Masterchef wannabe. But there may come a time for those of us they don’t own such appliances, when we want to impress a loved one with our baking and cooking prowess and these items will be needed.

How about renovation tools: the Block phenomenon has caught across Australia, but people are likely to renovate once, maybe twice in their lifetime. That’s a high cost-per-use which can be minimised for those that own them by providing access to others through sharing.

Another loved Aussie pastime is exploring the outdoors during public holidays and long weekends. With 12-14 public holidays annually, Aussies may have ample opportunity to get outdoors but in reality, 17% of Aussies have a weekend away four times a year with 8% of them visiting a wildlife park or sanctuary in those four trips away.

On those weekends away, they’ll need a tent, sleeping bag and other adventure gear to master the outdoors, all which come at a high cost. NorthFace and Patagonia may have made a sweet fortune serving adventure lovers, but it might be time for adventure lovers to reap the benefits and lend their gear to like-minded nature lovers.

What we know for sure is that consumers will most definitely own less and some will even begin to generate an income by sharing the things they own with others. Businesses will be impacted greatly, and will have to closely follow access trends and change or supplement their business models to respond to these trends by enabling people to access things as they wish.

Michelle Miroforidis is strategy director at PhD.

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