It may seem like there’s not much left that can be shared. There are platforms for sharing spare rooms, cars, storage spaces, car spaces, dresses, boats, campervans, your skills and your time.
An increasing number of Australians are interacting with and benefitting from the share or gig economy. Australia’s share economy was valued at $15.1 billion in 2017, while an estimated 10.8 million Australians were predicted to have earned extra money this way from July to December 2017.*
The sharing economy has disrupted many industries and for the better, providing simple, flexible solutions across many areas of our lives. And as a result, early adopting share economy juggernauts are reaping the rewards. But is it still possible to jump on board the share train with a scaleable niche?
The Rise of the Niche Gig
While the first to market will often maintain a strong competitive advantage, there is plenty of opportunity for offering a niche product or service where the market size is adequate, and you can offer better solutions to problems for a segment.
A key opportunity lies in developing a brand that hones in on a target segment, tailoring the offer to specific needs and lifestyles. The caveat to this of course, is that the segment represents a large enough target market to make the business viable.
Take two largely proven share economy sectors such as ridesharing and accommodation. Australia’s new all-female ride service Shebah capitalises on providing safe and convenient transport for women. Despite being a challenger brand to one of the biggest names in the sharing economy, Uber, their recent stellar success with crowdfunding is a testament to the recognition of the need for the service tailored for a specific market segment. With 50 per cent of the population within their target market, their niche is certainly scalable.
Airbnb has become the known reference point for the movement to utilise unused space in the home. We have now seen brands touted as the AirBnB of storage space or more recently the AirBnB of commuting in the case of new Monday-to-Friday listing site WeekDay Space. The site allows people with a spare room who might not be your typical Airbnb host or full-time sharer to accommodate professional lodgers who are looking to escape their weekday commute on weeknights only. The weekday lodging concept offers a solution to Australia’s growing commuting crisis, with more than two million Australians commuting more than 90 minutes per day**. In terms of scalability, 87% of people living alone have a spare room*** and many may prefer to enjoy their own space on weekends.
Many of these sites admittedly didn’t find success overnight and there are challenges to scaling a two-sided marketplace. So how do you first identify a segment with the most optimal niche for success?
How to find a Niche
Here are some things to consider:
- Problems that need solving
At the heart of the success of the sharing economy are solutions to problems. Take Uber for example. Their success comes from a need for cheaper, reliable, fast and widely available transport. They provide consumers with a simple and more economical solution.
What issues or problems result from demographic, social or economic changes? What aspects of our lives are becoming harder? What dreams are becoming harder to pursue? Which opportunities present solutions?
- New Regulation
As the share economy continues to grow, government regulation too shall grow. Will new regulations impact the ability for some to participate in existing share economy sites like AirbnB or Uber? Are there opportunities resulting from changes that will impact the way, means or frequency that people share on some platforms?
- Specialised Target Audience
There are always ways to improve upon a business model, no matter how established it is. Are there some demographic or geographic groups that are not able to fully participate or enjoy the benefits of existing share economy sites? Any groups who would respond or interact differently to others? What about the older or younger market? A business rather than leisure market? Do some groups warrant their own market altogether?
One size never fits all. Now more than ever, with consumers so open and keen to share, there are many more ways to find a scaleable niche within the sharing economy to seize that opportunity, create a new market or solve a problem.