Sharing – a blessing or a curse for companies?

Sharing Economy
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Established companies are not yet fully addressing the issue of the sharing economy

Established companies are still not fully addressing the sharing economy, as demonstrated by “BW Share,” a study by Fraunhofer IAO. In this study, researchers investigated how established companies currently view the sharing economy and provide initial recommendations for politics, business and research.

The sharing economy is booming at the moment. Particularly in the U.S., start-ups are springing up wherever you look. Commercial “sharing” of goods and services is turning consumers into providers and transforming the economy. So are established companies concerned that private sharing solutions might drive them out of the market? BW Share, a study by Fraunhofer IAO, has found the opposite. According to the results of the study, companies in the German state of Baden-Württemberg see not only an opportunity but a need to respond to this new way of doing business.

“We wanted to find out what impact, if any, the sharing economy’s current concepts and approaches are having on the established economy. We were also keen to see how companies assessed the current and future economic relevance of the sharing economy in terms of their own operations,” say Helge Spindler and Simone Martinetz, authors of the study. To this end, Fraunhofer IAO conducted a quantitative online survey in addition to a series of qualitative expert interviews.

Companies need to prepare for the sharing economy

Based on the results of the survey, the experts advise companies to prepare themselves for the sharing economy right away – even if it hasn’t reached their sector yet. One hurdle along the way seems to be that companies’ perceptions continue to be dominated by the currently booming peer-to-peer sharing economy, in which it is predominantly individuals who share products and services via digital platforms.

The authors of the study see a need for further research and development in the transfer of the sharing economy’s current mechanisms into the business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) business models of established companies. Digitalized processes and infrastructures are the cornerstone of a sharing economy, regardless of its particular focus. That is why sharing ought to be viewed as an interdisciplinary topic capable of permeating every sector, mainly as a result of economic forces. The study also concludes that the trends towards industry 4.0 and comprehensive digitalization have the potential to provide the foundation for a future “established” sharing economy, particularly against a backdrop of digital business models.

Study to be presented on December 8

On December 8, the study will be presented at Fraunhofer IAO as part of an event entitled “Potential and challenges of a sharing economy.” This forum will offer an opportunity to discuss the impact of sharing on established companies. BW Share was sponsored by the Ministry of Finance and Economics Baden-Württemberg and will be available free of charge at soon.

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