Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Barter Nation, Old Forms of Commerce Are New Again

From Inc.

"One example of this shift is the phenomenon of cooperative consumerism, in which social business models help American households avoid parting with their hard earned dollars.

Instead of buying, for example, consumers are engaging in new and increasingly sophisticated renting and borrowing systems that represent a kind of innovative community commerce. In many cases, these arrangements are designed to scale an individual’s purchasing power."


"And why buy, when you can borrow? BookRenter in San Mateo, California, is based on the insight that everybody has a seventy-five dollar calculus 200 textbook in their basement. Then there’s NeighborGoods, a website based in Los Angeles that answers the question "Do I really need to own a table saw?" A user can simply enter his or her zip code on the website in order to swap or rent bikes, tools, and lawnmowers.

A few new start-ups I’m following even help you make money off your purchases. WhipCar in London and Relay Rides in Boston help you rent out your car. Another interesting project is Empty Miles, which saves money for companies through collaborative logistics. In the U.S., 25 percent of all trucks on the nation’s highways are 'dead-heading'—that is, traveling empty. By using geolocation technology, companies can match vehicles and shipments, thus saving money and the environment."


"...the values of community consumerism go beyond saving money. In the new barter economy, it’s really about the consumer wanting both value and values. In our research, seventy one percent of American consumers say they now make it a point to buy brands from companies whose values are similar to my own. In Tampa we followed around a 'carrot mob,' which organized to support Kim Phan’s small local teashop. A boycott is a stick, but a carrot is an incentive. Kim’s commitment to a sustainable business model and support of her community was rewarded with carrots as people spread the word through their meet up group to support Kim’s business."


"In the emerging barter nation, households are shifting from consumption to production. They’re sharing skills and resources and demanding more from your business. We’ve just scratched the surface of this movement. Whose to say they can't scale to the power of, say, Walmart?"


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