A silent economic revolution is now changing industries one by one and removing the need for traditional companies: it is called the sharing economy, and have fostered disruptive services like AirBnB (share your room), Eatwith (share your meal), Zipcar (share cars), Breather (share your meeting room), Taskrabbit (share your time) and our own Easybring (share your spare transport capacity).
We released Easybring as a marketplace for package transport in December 2012, as a service where people could send stuff with people going the same direction and enabled anyone to earn money any time they went somewhere. Nine months after launch in tiny Norway, we now have 9,000 easybringers signed up for the service and Easybring has become a lively marketplace getting ready to be launched in new markets. A beta service is already available in UK and Sweden.
So what have we learned so far?
Building a two-sided marketplace
The basic for any business idea is to have something to offer (supply), and then make sure you find someone to buy your products or services (demand). Collaborative services are different, as you´ll need to build both supply and demand simultaneously. Lots of assignments make it attractive to become an easybringer and get paid for bringing stuff whenever you go somewhere, but nobody will request transport from a service unless they have a solid supply of easybringers who can sign up for assignments. The supply and demand balance must be monitored constantly and balanced through marketing activities until critical mass is reached.
The importance of trust
Although we still haven´t experienced a lost package through our system, people are naturally scared of new services. In contrast, the same people accepts obvious risks in existing services, just because they have been around for a long time. It would have been a challenge to introduce a mailing system based on unsecured post boxes outside people homes where anyone could grab sensitive letters and small packages, but we accept the risk because it has always been there. Interrupting new models, however, need to prove bulletproof before the masses accepts them. As a consequence, we early on decided to identify all the users by verified credit cards, phone numbers and email addresses as well as providing insurance for all deliveries.
The power of branding
The early phase of a new collaborative platform is always the most challenging. The first ones trying to send something through the system would probably not get things delivered until the critical mass of easybringers were recruited. Still, in user surveys, 80% of the early adopters claim they will use the service again although their tasks were not(!) delivered and they even recommend the service to others. These fantastic results are of course due to the brand connection these people had and their belief in the vision of creating the most environmentally friendly transportation system for packages by leveraging spare transport capacity in all vehicles.
Listen to the users
Honestly, the first versions of Easybring sucked on both Web and mobile. We had a complicated user interface, and the system crashed. We will probably never be satisfied, but the most valuable suggested improvements were not from inside the team, but from the users through social media, user surveys and email requests. Our most important learning is to remember who the service is built for – and it´s definitely not us.
Editorial note: Easybring is now Nimber, a collaborative service for deliveries.