Last week's blog post talked about trust in the sharing economy and different views on whether peer economy users are experiencing honest, organic trust or not. Whether you believe that the sharing economy is a trust inducing system or that it's all an illusion you can't ignore that it's an economic model that is increasing in strength.
But how are they doing it? Peer-to-peer Sites like eBay and Craigslist have been around for almost 2 decades and while both have done well, they didn't necessarily inspire the intensity of excitement that we are seeing from the success of companies like Uber and Airbnb. Carl Alviani explains why in his recent WIRED article "Uber Learned the Hard Way: Transparency Rules the Sharing Economy". Alviani talks about Uber's recent struggle trying to explain their surge-pricing policy:
This is far more vitriol than you’d expect from a simple price increase, but makes more sense when you recognize how much consumers hate opacity and unpredictability. So when CEO Travis Kalanick announced that Uber’s app would indicate when a current surge period is scheduled to end, fans breathed a sigh of relief. Kalanick describes the move as an attempt to “bring more humanity to our communications,” but it’s more accurate to say that Uber is finally coming to grips with active transparency, which has become standard throughout the Sharing Economy.
Alviani goes onto to talk about what other platforms, such as Airbnb and Etsy, are doing to promote transparency. Essentially, they highlight everything that could go wrong with your connection and what to do about it. All with the clarity and care that you'd find on any other part of their site.
This is why established peer-to-peer marketplaces like Etsy and Airbnb make a point of using their design chops to celebrate information that others sweep under the rug. Go to their websites and you’ll encounter pages outlining terms of service, cancellation policies, dispute resolutions and other boring details, treated with the same elegant design and clever copywriting as taglines and banner ads. Features like searchable photos, well-written descriptions and sensible interaction flows are everywhere, not because they’re nice to have, but because they’re the foundation that allows this trust-based model work. These are what make browsing for vintage furniture more comfortable on Etsy than on eBay, and meeting people on Match.com less creepy than on Craigslist.
It appears that Uber has learned their lesson and it will be interesting to see what else they will make transparent. Check out the entire article by Alviani on WIRED and let us know what you think. Why do you think transparency is such a huge part of the sharing economy? Better yet, why does this feel like such a new concept? What organization would you like to see be a little more transparent?