Building Trust: A Learning Journey for the Sharing Economy and Big Brands

We often think of the world being powered by electricity or gas or solar power, but the reality is that our world is powered by trust. “You can’t have success without trust,” explains former Johnson and Johnson CEO Jim Burke. “The word trust embodies almost everything you can strive for that will help you succeed. You tell me any human relationship, whether it is marriage or a friendship or a social interaction; in the long run, the same thing is true about business, especially businesses that deal with the public.”

The sharing economy—lead by big names like Uber, Airbnb, Etsy, car2go, TaskRabbit, Kiva and Kickstarter—looked poised to overwhelm the traditional economy by offering less expensive and more convenient services, including car transportation, places to stay and help getting work done. In its early days it was growing at an astonishing near 50% a year and big companies were sitting up, taking notice, and feverishly planning for how they might adapt.

But that explosive growth has slowed. Yes, Uber is now ubiquitous, but every other aspect of the sharing economy has largely stalled, according to our research. The reason? A lack of trust.

Only a minority of North Americans trust any aspect of the sharing economy. For example, just 31% trust a car sharing service like Uber. Only 28% trust a home sharing service like Airbnb. Not only do these types of organizations lack trust, significant minorities don’t even think they are safe.

Not surprisingly, if you don’t trust a service or don’t feel it is safe you are unlikely to use it. Our analysis shows a very tight relationship between the level of trust and the level of usage of these sharing economy services.

One group in society that shows a greater level of trust in the elements of the sharing economy are millennials. They show higher levels of trust and higher levels of usage, but even amongst this generation there are signs that the sharing economy has hit a wall, as far as the level of trust goes.

This trust problem is not unique to the sharing economy, however. It is afflicting big brands too.

But we believe the companies involved should not just give up and accept that their markets are limited.  We know that trust can be built. The problem just needs to be understood and acted on.

“Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible actionable asset that you can create—much faster than you probably think” writes Stephen M.R. Covey in The Speed of Trust.

In our whitepaper, The Battle for Trust and the Sharing Economy there are lessons for brands of all kinds. In it we:

  • Report on participation in the elements of the sharing economy, tracking data from 2014 to today;
  • Focus on millennials use of the sharing economy and what that means for the future;
  • Reveal how trust is directly related to usage and how it is an issue that companies—inside and outside the sharing economy–must address;
  • Review a case study of how one sharing economy company went on a “learning journey” to identify how they could build trust;
  • Explore the academic literature and describe learning streams around building trust.

To learn more about trust, the sharing economy and its implications for your business, download our whitepaper The Battle for Trust and the Sharing Economy.

Download the Whitepaper

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