Is the crowd a disruption or an opportunity for large companies?

Many are excited about the new collaborative economy, where people use common technologies to get what they need from each other. This has created disruptions for some industries, but overall, holds much business opportunity for progressive companies…

Progressive companies can glean greater loyalty through crowdfunding, turn to the crowd for new co-innovation and launch their own sharing programmes to expand how they serve their customers new desires. Companies who ignore this trend are likely to suffer from disruption, but those that lean in can benefit from using the crowd to their advantage.

In the next section, I’ll share examples of what the crowd is doing, and how large companies are responding to integrate the crowd into their strategy.

Crowdfunding is at an all-time high, there’s been $16 Billion of investments made by the crowd, reports The Economist. Despite the growth, there’s been concerns that in the case of the crowdfunded Occulus Rift being acquired by Facebook, that the investors are making donations for perks, and not actually gaining equity.

To solve some of these woes, large companies are applying crowdfunding into their strategy, DIY brand U-Haul has launched a crowdfunding platform called U-Haul Investors Club, enabling the crowd to fund new trucks, and in return these investors would receive dividends from the performance of the specific vehicle.

The crowd is creating their own goods in the maker movement, which appears to be a disruption for large companies who create physical goods. However, savvy companies like Hasbro are enabling makers who use 3D printing services to alter and 3D print Hasbro approved toys, fostering deeper engagement, and even generating new revenues as each 3D Print of a toy provides Hasbro with new revenues, see the Hasbro and Shapeways partnership called SuperFanArt.

Ride sharing and rides as a service continue to dominate the media landscape as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and BlaBlaCar continue to grow in adoption, funding, and market attention. Executives at some of these start-ups are aiming to reach a point where car ownership ceases to exist. Innovation groups at BMW have launched a new program called BMW Drive Now, which offers a membership programme for customers to borrow Electric 1-Series vehicles at lots in Urban cities. This innovative program enables BMW to offer a single car to more customers, increasing utilization, reducing inefficiency and generating recurring revenues.

In each of the above examples, the crowd shows growth, and large companies are tapping this trend to harness this strategy for their own benefit. What can we learn from U-Haul, Hasbro and BMW? They enabled the crowd to help them with funding, which in turn increased loyalty, let the crowd co-create products like Hasbro, and let customers rent your products instead of own them, like BMW. In each of these cases, companies are altering their business model, to tap the crowd movement.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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