The growth of the sharing economy is astounding. We now share our beds on AirBnB, our money on KickStarter and our cooking recipes on Skillshare. The core of this collaborative consumption movement is fueled by the Trust Currency.
The sharing economy has brought about disruptive changes to the online industry. It empowers anyone to utilize any idle assets and to turn them into an additional source of revenue. Peer-to-peer collaboration places a premium on trust between two unknown individuals as they take part in a transaction. This trust currency is fast becoming one of the most valued currency today.
Trust in the Past
In the past, brands only needed to focus on building trust between them and their consumers. Public relations, advertising and marketing efforts were targeted towards consumers in order to build a trusting relationship between them. Their aim was to make consumers believe that they are the best option possible. In return, we trusted these visual messages, hoping that these brands would make good on their promises they promote.
When looking for a university, we know to choose from Harvard, Stanford or any Ivy League university because of the hugely successful image that they present. These brands have built a reputation for being trustworthy, guaranteeing a level of intellect, educational excellence and professional learning for university undergraduates.
However, with the sharing economy, we see trust as a currency featuring in deeper emotional levels than before.
Today, the sharing economy has put a question mark on “who” we can trust. While we are able to confidently match the brand “Harvard” to its academic success (or at least some of the famous people who’ve graduated from there e.g. POTUS Barack Obama), we cannot do likewise for an "Adam Johnson" on Udemy or Skillshare who claims to be able to teach us Computing 101. How do we mimic a trust that is built face-to-face, online?
Online marketplaces try to circumvent this problem by implementing a key metric in their platforms: a "reputation" scale. These scales come in all forms and sizes, ranging from stars to numbers to comments. These scales measure how "wealthy" someone is in trust currency. There are also many other cues to judge someone's trustworthiness, such as a smooth user experience, impactful images and quick page loading times.
Looking forward, trust is shifting from being a one-way road into a multi-laned highway.
Trust in the Future
As collaborative consumption continues to increase, the trust currency will become even more complicated. Similar to how credit companies assess borrowers, businesses would also be given the opportunity to rate the customers that they handle. Consumers could be measured by their trust levels to determine who gets priority customer service, or get better promotional offers.
Trust in the Marketplace
The benefits of building trust between providers and customers in the marketplace is immense. By having strong confidence in the marketplace, consumers will be more willing to make purchases and merchants will be more willing to come on board, solving the eternal problem of the chicken and egg.
There are many ways that you can build up a strong trust currency. Likewise, there is a multitude of ways to measure the value of your trust currency. Building trust will take time, but with it, you will gain the loyalty of your followers. And that is why you should invest in the trust currency.
About: Kenneth Low is a co-founder of Arcadier, a SaaS company that powers next generation marketplace ideas. Follow Arcadier on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for news and updates.