2018’s trends: the snowballing sharing economy

Date : 19 December 2018

This is the fourth and final blog in a series in which I’ve reviewed the supply chain trends we called out for 2018. So far, I’ve focused on: 

We projected that 2018 would be year of exploration and new partnerships, driven by low-margins and the need to get more from assets.

With low margins squeezed further, the “push” to explore how utilisation and efficiency can be improved has grown and that’s what the sharing economy is all about – businesses monetising assets that are not being fully utilised.

In this context, the sharing economy can be seen as a way of responding to negative market conditions, but there’s also a “pull”.  The sharing economy can be a vehicle for growth, but to reap the benefits of sharing in a highly competitive marketplace, businesses need to think multilaterally. 

What does it really mean?

The sharing economy can be a bit confusing, not least because there are lots of interpretations of the definition. I read a piece that suggested hitchhiking or carpooling both epitomise the sharing economy because the additional passenger is taking a seat that would not otherwise be occupied on a trip that was already planned.

By contrast, a journey taken in an Uber taxi would never have existed without demand being created specifically for it. Yet the Uber model is the example many put forward to describe the sharing economy. 

This distinction is important, not because it includes or excludes ideas, but because it helps clarify triggers and motivations, and therefore, what the costs and benefits are. Are you seeking to “sweat an asset” already in use? Or are you creating demand for that asset in order to share it with others, and perhaps, share their assets in return?

Connecting supply with demand 

We continued to explore the idea of sharing this year, bringing the industry together again to reduce wasted miles. We hosted a Hackathon to address the need for innovative approaches and horizontal collaboration. 

The format was chosen because it involves collaboration and creative problem-solving at a rapid pace. The safe collaborative space, away from daily business and its competitive dimensions helped support the breakthrough thinking needed. 

Eight key areas were hacked, and three priorities were put forward. They are:

  1. Mindset for collaboration
  2. Data-driven
  3. Collaborative services

These have been used to create a roadmap, which can be used by businesses to engage partners, act and make progress towards this challenging but potentially massively rewarding endeavour. We’ve summarised IGD’s work on reducing wasted miles. Take a look!  

Supply Chains for Growth

The sharing economy makes industry expertise and connections less significant, with the technology doing much of the legwork. In doing so, it levels the playing field, allowing willing collaborators to take advantage of opportunities when and where they emerge.

In our Supply Chains for Growth report, we projected that retailer collaboration platforms and the sharing economy will provide an increasingly flexible range of convenient fulfilment solutions for consumers. The importance of this will grow as businesses grapple with the need to reduce urban congestion, while offering consumers in rural locations a comparable offer to those in cities. Flexibility is the name of the game and this is a key feature of the sharing economy. 

Source: Supply Chains for Growth, IGD, 2018


From the need to reduce carbon emissions to the growth of online shopping, there are no shortage of challenges for the industry to address. Working with or alongside others opens a world of opportunity to create value, which it isn’t possible to unlock alone. 

Using technology to connect supply with demand is extremely powerful. When done well, it allows manufacturers and retailers to operate in a flexible way, offering consumers a better level of service. 

But to do so, food and grocery businesses must think differently. As stated in Supply Chains for Growth, “We will need to combine supply chain ingenuity and problem-solving skill, with advanced tools and technology. It will require a mindset that looks for opportunities rather than challenges.” These are the key ingredients of the sharing economy and expect to see more of it in the years to come.

Chris Irish

Chris Irish

Supply Chain Insight Manager

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