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Buy, rent or borrow? The rise of the access economy

What exactly is the access economy and how can you benefit from it? 

Why buy when you can share and why spend the time when you can outsource?

Australians have already been embracing a ‘sharing economy’ for generations, by asking the teenager next door to walk our dogs after school or renting holiday houses that were advertised in the local paper or on major websites.

The idea of the ‘access economy’ takes our sharing culture one step further.

It refers to the rapidly emerging area of business that allows people to pay for access to goods and services, rather than buying them outright.

According to Consumer Psychologist Adam Ferrier, “The access economy embraces technology to put the provider of goods and services in direct relationship with the consumer.

“It thereby reduces the need or role of intermediaries in this relationship.”

Whereas once that neighbourhood dog walker might have needed to rely on agencies or leaflets to contract them with new jobs, now they can easily manage themselves.

They can also use the internet to expand their reach to more distant suburbs. 

Easier, faster and more convenient 

“The idea of paying for access has been around for many years, for example we've always been able to rent something rather than pay.

“The internet, especially when underpinned with the nbn™ network, allows [the idea of the access economy] to be applied to many more goods and services, in many other areas of life.” says Adam, who is a registered psychologist and also Chief Strategy Officer and part owner of independent global creative media agency Cummins & Partners.

It is connectivity that has allowed popular businesses like Airtasker to change the way we outsource.

This platform allows everyone from delivery drivers to website developers to pick up one-off jobs.

The benefits work both ways; busy people are able to outsource what needs doing for a competitive price and those who are looking to make an extra few dollars are able to do so without the cost of advertising their services.

As the saying goes: “What you seek is seeking you.”

The access economy means there are more people ‘looking’ than ever.

Where to start 

If you’re new to the access economy, all you need is a credit card (or even a PayPal account may do) and access to a connected device like a computer, tablet or smartphone.

“A good place to get started is with one of the big brands already operating in this space,” suggests Adam.

“Try taking an Uber, booking a holiday [rental] on Airbnb, or getting something done with Airtasker”.

Adam’s advice for first timers is that if you find it difficult or expensive you should hunt around and see what other opportunities exist to make things easier or more cost effective.

On the flip side, if you’re wondering how you can create or boost your income and you wish to offer services, first do some research into how other people in your area either supply or do things.

If you’d like to list your house on Airbnb, take a look at the local offerings to get an idea of the competition.

If you’re considering becoming an Uber driver, check how many there already are in your area.

Or you could start something completely new “Help [your customers] solve a problem they don’t even realise needs solving,” suggests Adam.

“The bigger the problem you’re solving, the more likelihood of success.”  

Adam notes that the Access economy has the potential to benefit everyone. He uses it himself, often without even realising.

“I'm a regular user of Airbnb, I Uber as much as I taxi and I've had people design concepts for me on [outsourcing website] 99Designs.

“The other day I had my evening meal delivered for me via Deliveroo, and I've joined and created multiple crowdsourced initiatives. The access economy is a part of my daily life,” he shares.

The benefits to Australian and indeed the global community of the access economy are threefold.

“Firstly, consumers benefit as they only pay for what they use,” says Adam.

“Secondly the providers of goods and services can make an income from previously under-utilised assets.”

Finally, as the world witnessed after the launch of success stories Uber and Airbnb, the access economy has the power to benefit small business owners and their teams.

Thanks to online connectivity, the entrepreneurially-minded can develop new business ideas that open up a treasure chest of opportunities for themselves and their customers. 

Interested in the Access Economy? You're not alone. More and more Australians are embracing this new way of sharing every year.

Last updated on 09 January 2017

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