Collaborative consumption : are traditional french companies lagging behind?

By June 20, 2013

Sharing, social channels, local involvement and corporate responsibility: these are the watchwords for companies looking to get in step with the collaborative economy.

The advent of the collaborative economy goes hand in hand with the rise in our society of a sharing approach, social networks, local involvement and corporate responsibility. As a result, some of the more traditional firms, which were certainly not there at the birth of this movement, need to start rethinking their management structure and their business model. While some French firms have already taken steps in this direction, there is still a general lack of awareness among major French companies of the collaborative phenomenon, argues Edouard Dumortier, co-founder of ILokYou, a platform for people to hire goods and services to each other, and author of a report entitled "L’avènement de la consommation collaborative, quel modèle économique en France en 2030?"(The advent of collaborative consumption : what model for France in 2030?)

Most French firms don’t yet ‘get it’

Because most traditional French companies haven’t yet grasped the full extent of this collaborative dynamic, their response to the needs and expectations of their customers often falls short. “For example, instead of buying cheaper, consumers now want to buy ‘better’, i.e. they want to buy products that will last and above all products that are produced responsibly,” points out Edouard Dumortier. “It’s therefore time to move from the concept of ‘units sold’ to ‘units used’.” Moreover, it is also vital to build a new company culture for the era of the collaborative economy and hyper-connectivity, argues Jeremiah Owyang, author of a report entitled “Corporations Must Join the Collaborative Economy”,  who was a speaker at a session on this subject at the Le Web conference in London on 5-6 June. If the collaborative economy is to become part of a company’s value chain, it must learn to let go and dare to launch new initiatives. This calls for a more open-minded attitude in the management team and a more human face for the company.

How to make the collaborative economy part of the company business

We can however point to some French companies that are starting to get in step with this new-style economy, for example vehicle manufacturers that have set up car-sharing platforms and IKEA France, which is planning to set up a broad hiring mechanism for its own products. The La Poste group (postal, banking and financial services) has taken on board the collaborative approach at several levels of the company, with partners as well as customers. With a view to optimising resources, it has set up an internal car-pooling system and has embarked on an initiative to collect office waste paper from SMEs with which it works. “We’re also in the process of listing all the excess capacity the Group has, in order to ensure we do something useful with it,” says Anthony Deydier, head of La Poste’s Marketing Innovation programme, adding: “We’re also thinking about how to drive collaborative consumption forward by offering supplementary services to our customers.” Among its initiatives, La Poste has now introduced a free identity certification service to help avoid fraud on collaborative websites. After initial verification of the person’s identity card by la Poste, a virtual identity card is provided, which can be added to the online profile of a person wishing to share or exchange products. Entitled Identité Numérique (Digital Identity), this initiative is a practical response to widespread concerns over the risk of fraud arising from online user anonymity.

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