How Might The Sharing Economy Influence B2B Events?
Almost everyone benefits from the sharing economy nowadays. What once began as a system for individuals to share items, rent rooms and organise transport has now developed into an economic model used across a huge range of industries and branching into markets like the Business to Business (B2B) one.
The sharing economy has influenced our lives and work in various subtle ways, and will continue to do so as it develops further. The events industry is one area where changes may impact everything from the technology used to the way hospitality is organised, and in this article we’ll be focusing on how B2B events may be impacted and influenced by the sharing economy.
In this article:
What is the Sharing Economy?
The sharing economy emerged around the end of the 2000s, and despite being knocked around a bit by the effects of the pandemic, continues to develop. Also originally known as the peer-to-peer economy, it’s a system where products and services are shared between consumers and purchased for the short term when needed.
Some of the best-known examples of B2C companies that are attributed to the rise of the sharing economy are AirBnB and Uber, which gave consumers the opportunity to pay for transport and accommodation services provided by other individuals when they were required. Plenty of other peer-to-peer (or P2P) companies emerged, saving consumers from purchasing goods that they would only use a handful of times and services that were only needed once in a while.
The growth of the B2B sharing economy came later, when businesses realised that they could not only benefit from shared products and services but also create and market them to others in a similar position. With both sustainability and cost-efficiency being a priority for many organisations at the moment, the B2B sharing economy in particular is set to continue growing alongside P2P, which both have a number of outcomes that may impact the events industry.
What is the Impact of the Sharing Economy?
The sharing economy continues to grow and develop, and its impact has been widespread across a range of industries. Here are some of the key ways it has made a difference.
The option of hiring freelancers or paying for services and goods when needed has allowed both consumers and businesses to access much more personalised experiences. You could purchase goods that have multiple functions to get the best value for money or find a cheap but low-quality service provider to pay regularly. But it’s much easier to rent the exact equipment or item that you need, or find providers that cater to exactly what you’re looking for, creating a much more personal and rewarding experience.
One of the biggest impacts of the sharing economy is that it helps to create less waste by offering consumers the opportunity to borrow or hire products and items when needed, instead of just buying them. Not only does this reduce the number of appliances and pieces of equipment sitting around unused and eventually being disposed of, but it also impacts larger products like cars by giving consumers the option just to rent a vehicle on occasion or use services like Lyft and Uber.
The flip side of this is there’s the potential for limited items to become hoarded by smaller groups of people that realise they can rent out a product for money instead of just giving it to someone else. A reduction in demand and waste is also balanced out by the fact that some people may then buy things like cars and houses for the sole purpose of offering them temporarily, which makes it harder for other people to purchase them when necessary.
Cheaper services and products
A major benefit for businesses and individuals is that the sharing economy means that, instead of buying products outright or regularly paying for a service that you only occasionally use, you can save money by just hiring these when necessary. This is particularly valuable as a range of living costs are rising and demand is increasing for more budget-friendly options that avoid consumers having to make inefficient purchases.
This is a particular benefit in the B2B sharing economy for smaller businesses, as it can remove the need for large purchases in the early stages of growth and allow for this money to be used more efficiently elsewhere.
Crowdfunding is an example of how money is used as an asset in itself in the sharing economy, offering individuals with a surplus the opportunity to invest or support schemes and startups and reap the reward at a later date. On a business level, this applies to shareholders and investors in new companies, but on a consumer level, this has meant that individuals can fund projects and purchases through the support of others through websites like GoFundMe.
Whilst the rise of contract work in the recruitment industry isn’t solely down to the growth of the sharing economy, it is connected. Freelance workers and contractors give businesses the option to increase and decrease their workforce when required or bring in specialists for certain projects without having to hire them full-time. This also allows individuals to market their services and choose the jobs they’d like to work on, offering more freedom and usually greater satisfaction from each role.
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How will B2B Events be Affected?
Now we’ve looked at some of the key impacts of the rise of the sharing economy, here are just some of the ways that B2B events might be, or already have been, affected.
Equipment and Materials
One of the clearest examples of the sharing economy within the global meetings and events industry is built around sustainable activity. Event organisers and the brands that they serve are increasingly aware of the waste created by the average event, and the desire to reduce this waste chimes with their desire to have these events add economic and social good to the world.
An example of a company doing just this is Event Cycle, a UK business run by ex-event organisers. The company goes into events and looks to repurpose materials that would in other circumstances go to landfill.
At the recent COP26 global summit at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Event Cycle worked with local authorities and charities, as well as the organisers themselves, to upgrade the quality of the carpets that ran throughout the site. These carpets were then used, post-event, to support housing for underprivileged communities; some 1,800 in total.
Within the same conference, laptops were given to refugees of the Ukraine war, and furniture from IKEA - one of the sponsors of the event - was also used for local housing.
Sustainability has also had a significant impact on the way that hospitality is approached in the B2B events industry, specifically with food. Events often require catering, and this can lead to large amounts of food waste if numbers aren’t calculated correctly or the catering company doesn't have a particular focus on reducing waste.
Whilst an ideal approach to improving sustainability in hospitality is to be much more accurate and mindful when it comes to planning catering and purchasing ingredients, many events are taking steps to ensure that unused food isn’t wasted after the attendees have eaten their fill. Increasingly, leftover ingredients are now being used in circular kitchens and circular menus, and food that can’t be reused is given to food banks and charities.
The next evolution for event organisers is collaborative working with other events, mainly through venues. Scheduling major events at the same time to take advantage of infrastructure, staging, exhibition stands and branding is all within grasp, but takes administration and energy.
However, cross-collaboration is something this industry does well. There is plenty of room for the sharing economy to continue to provide support for many of the challenges event organisers face every day, and by collaborating with other events, larger venues with a much wider range of facilities become a viable option for organisers, helping to improve the experience they offer and potentially reach a wider audience.
As we’ve already touched upon, the growth of the sharing economy helped to increase the number of contract workers offering their services to others as individuals, instead of as part of a larger company. What this means for B2B events is that event organisers now have the option of working with freelance or contract suppliers and exhibitors instead of sticking with large, established organisations and companies.
Whilst there are certainly benefits to choosing a company over a freelancer, the services offered by freelancers are often more specialised or bespoke, which might fit what you are looking for. This might be from an event organisation point of view, where you’re able to find a caterer or decorator that offers exactly what you had in mind, or can expand and diversify the collection of exhibitors you offer attendees.
Events organisers have likely factored in a range of different things when planning an event, but a new addition to this list courtesy of the sharing economy is the proximity or prevalence of certain P2P businesses.
For example, if you’re hosting an event in a venue unreachable by public transport, plenty of attendees are likely to want to attend by paying for a taxi through an app like Uber or Lyft. Whilst the availability of these services is growing geographically, they aren’t accessible everywhere, and it’s worth considering how many of your attendees might be put off attending if they can’t utilise their favourite sharing economy service provider.
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