Home Articles How has technology fuelled the thriving sharing economy?

How has technology fuelled the thriving sharing economy?


We’re living in wild times when renting a stranger’s bedroom or ride sharing in somebody else’s car is no longer weird, and often the go-to option: financially and logistically.

Since the disruptive visions of Brian Chesky of Airbnb, Travis Kalanick of Uber and other pioneers in the sharing economy space, people are winning on both sides of sharing marketplaces, either making money from their underutilised assets or accessing assets they could never use before.

And it’s technology that is allowing sharing to thrive, triggering a cultural shift to where connecting with strangers and sharing, rather than being wasteful — of space, cars or clothes — has become the norm.

In 2016, my partner Kirsten Kore and I were inspired to launch Designerex — the Airbnb of designer dresses — and we now have over 14,000 listings with strangers renting each other’s wardrobes online.

And since then, the sharing economy has become ingrained into our daily lives with the number of sharing economy users in the USA expected to reach 86.5 million by 2021.

How has tech given the sharing economy a leg up?

Thanks to some key technological advancements, the sharing economy is on a clear path to overhauling the consumption habits of our future.

Remote ID Verification

We are more likely to share anything, if we know who we are sharing with.

ID verification has come a long way since the days when we photocopied our driver’s license to rent something. Today the most successful sharing platforms have integrated ID verification tools that can scan government issued IDs such as Driver’s Licenses or Passports for legitimacy.

At Designerex, this was one of the first tools we knew was essential for our users when lending out their beloved dresses to people across the country.

We explored partnering with Mitek and ultimately integrated with Silicon Valley based company Jumio, as it was the same ID verification tool used by Airbnb.

The positive response has been overwhelming and in many cases users will only share their dress if they can see the ID Verification badge on the profile of the Renter.

Social Media

Social media technology has come a long way in recent years.

With over 95 million posts on Instagram per day, social posting has become a currency and video is exploding — the popularity of Instagram Stories tells us everything with video consumption on Instagram increasing at the rate of 80 per cent year on year. Live broadcasts is also now a norm.

What does this technological progress in social media mean for the sharing economy?

Having unique content is now more important than ever. It’s not about ownership. It’s about the posts created in various dreamy locations wearing various outfits for just one occasion.

The sharing economy is all about access. Sharing allows users to build viral followings with fresh content — no need to be photographed in the same living room or in the same outfit twice! — which they are using for both personal and professional growth.

Payments Technologies

In a 2018 Capital One Survey, 4 out of every 10 US millennials considered it inconvenient to pay by cash.

Sharing platforms are all driven by convenient online payments, on both sides of the marketplace, whether consumers are spending or earning money.

Improvement in payments technologies has played a big role in the millions of online transactions that make up the sharing economy today. It started with PayPal and quickly evolved: Venmo and Apple Pay have all been key. 

In Australia, the buy now pay later boom with companies like Afterpay has seen tremendous growth, especially with retail products such as fashion. 1 in 4 Australian millennials have used Afterpay, a service we quickly offered access to on Designerex.

Geographical Mapping

Gregory’s street maps are a vintage item these days; we have come a long way with Google maps.

Consumer behaviouralist Ken Hughes speaks about the impact of geo-based technologies on today’s ‘blue-dot’ consumer who expects the whole world to revolve around them and their blue dot on a map.

Using maps apps to locate a lender also increases security and breaks down psychological barriers between consumers.

We may be thousands of miles apart, but we both have a blue dot somewhere on the same map flashing from our smartphones in our own pockets.

Device Capability

Gone are the days of the Nokia 3310 or Ericsson 337 — these early mobile phones weren’t equipped for the sharing economy as we know it today.

Before the advent of smartphones, the only way we could see an image of that holiday apartment we wanted, was through our laptops.

Now, 63 per cent of all traffic is on mobile devices, well-surpassing our other devices, and the progression of Smartphones has had a massive impact on when and where we can search for our ideal apartment or gala outfit.

This accessibility fuels the sharing economy.

Overall, technology has been central to the growth of this new, game changing economy. But once technology made sharing mainstream, still the single biggest contributing factor has been the massive demand by consumers. Ultimately technology is only as useful as the humans driving it.

Costa Koulis is cofounder of Designerex, a peer-to-peer designer dress sharing platform.