It's true: "One person's trash is another person's treasure."
So what is this Collaborative Economy and what the heck is Yerdle?
1. The Collaborative Economy
This "trend" has been a long time coming but was finally given a name that has gained a lot of traction. The term encompasses three societal developments:
- The Sharing Economy (aka The "Peer-to-Peer" Economy
- The Maker Movement (or "Maker Culture")
- The Co-Innovation Movement
In her March 2014 Fast Company article, Ariel Schwartz writes: The Collaborative Economy Is Exploding, And Brands That Ignore It Are Out Of Luck.
"Rides, houses, power tools: You can share almost anything today, and the number of people sharing is growing every day. If you're a company that only sells to consumers and doesn't help them share, you may want to rethink your plans."
The article also presents some nicely visualized statistics.
The Highest Form of Loyalty is Shared Destiny
For an introduction to the Collaborative Economy, I recommend this Slideshare deck by Jeremiah Owyang that took me down the path of Yerdling (disclaimer: read at your own risk):
- "Sharing is the new buying". It saves money, creates an experience, and is efficient.
- Societal and cultural changes like social media have paved the way. Examples are the Dollar Shave Club that proves that any product can be a service, or #UberTree. Yes, there's an app for that, even for your X-mas tree.Or outsource your clothing choices with Trunk Club.
- New technology is opening up new business opportunities. Example: Google & Uber are competing in the area of shipping (watch out Amazon). Smartphones and other existing tools are enablers.
- Sustainability is a driver (but not the main one): See the Patagonia & eBay Common Threads initiative provide a used clothing marketplace.
- "The highest form of loyalty is shared destiny", says Jeremiah. Example: The UHaul Investors Club provides UHaul with capital, while generating customer profits and commitment. Or check out Lending Clubs as a way to avoid banks.
What are the Limits of Sharing?
While tweeting during Jeremiah's presentation, I was followed by a Twitter account called @GetPitStop; byline: "Share Your Restroom".
Personally, I find this concept has taken it "a toilet too far" but it shows you that there seem to be no limits to what can be shared.
On September 17, 2014, Jeremiah will present the keynote: What the Collaborative Economy Means for the Future of Business at the Social Shake-Up Conference in Atlanta.
Yerdle is a cell phone app. Yes, they have a website, but to barter properly, you really have to go to the app on your phone (unfortunately, there is no iPad version, but the iPhone app works on the iPad; my Android friends say app functionality is limited).
Free Online Shopping: True or False?
Let's face it, I've spent quite a bit of time lately looking for packaging materials, printing shipping labels and packing Yerdle items. I've also spent money purchasing tape, and have taken various detours to drop off packages at FedEx boxes. And, of course, I've been paying for shipping for the "stuff" I yerdled. Free?
Purchasing aka Bartering
So how does Yerdle work? (Or "yerdling" as I call it; even though my husband finds that me using this verb bi-directionally is confusing. When I say I am "yerdling" something, he asks "does that mean you are getting an item or getting rid of one?" It makes sense to me, as in my native language German, there is also only a single word for "lend" and "borrow". Context, baby.)
Yerdle starts you off with 250 points to spend. To stay in the game though, you will have to generate more points. You can spend your points by "purchasing" items posted on Yerdle. Items either have a minimum price (or zero price) or a "get it now price" or both.In either case, you can start by making an offer or if there is a "get it now" price - you guessed it - get it now.
Selling aka Posting
You can post your own stuff on the site with up to four pictures, a title, description, category and your desired minimum price, "get it now price" or neither. It all happens on your phone and is very simple. If you have a minimum price set, that might be all you will get for your item. If it's a popular item, people will bid higher: either up to your "get it now price" = there's a winner; or, if there is no "get it now price", a bidding war might ensue and you'll reap tons of points.
As you can tell, you have to contemplate your pricing strategy if you want to maximize your profits aka points. You don't have that problem if you just want to get rid of some old junk and make somebody happy. Items stay up for 4 days or until "purchased" (whatever comes first). Yerdle will repost your item automatically, once. You can edit posted item prices after posting.
Shipping or Pick Up
When you post an item, you also communicate what the winner will need to pay for shipping. Options: small envelope ($2), small box ($3), or medium box ($4). You can also allow local pick up. Personally, I never choose pick up; too close for comfort. Plus, the site has US-wide Yerdlers. Yerdle also allows drop off at their offices in San Francisco so a Yerdle winner can pick up. Would be interesting to know how frequently that happens. I've lately seen sofas and other larger items posted where this would make sense.
Here the brilliant part:
- To pay for shipping of an item you "won", you simply log into your Amazon account. Choose your address. Pay. Done.
- If you have to ship, Yerdle will email you a label as soon as your "client" has paid for shipping. Print it, cut it out, put it on the package; drop at a FedEx box.
The Yerdle support people remind me of Zappos and other places with fun and friendly service. They call themselves the "Happiness Team" and despite having a small staff have always responded fairly quickly to me. Lately, some items have disappeared from my account, but I think that's because Yerdle helped me merge two accounts that I set up by mistake (I logged in with Google+ AND Facebook).
So What's the Big Draw?
While my husband keeps shaking his head as a flurry of small packages continues to arrive at our house, I've tried to put my finger on exactly why I like Yerdle so much.
Preliminary Finding: Yerdle Meets Three of my First World "Needs":
- Sustainability: It's great to get rid of your old stuff. It's even better to give it to somebody who actually WANTS it. I call this "true recycling",
- Pop Culture: Browsing the postings on Yerdle is like going to a museum of life. Yerdle provides anthropological insights based on "the stuff" we own and discard; it provides sociological insights on our culture, based on how we value things (pay attention to the wording people use to market their wares), and the abundance present in our first world society.
- Individuality: Like at second-hand shops, the items you can find on Yerdle are often unique. Many look like they were dug out of people's attics and basements. Sometimes you can't help but wonder if the seller won't regret giving them away. In a society where strip malls dominate and major brands dictate fashion trends, it's refreshing to get access to vintage and self-made items.
Whatever the deep down reasons for my Yerdle obsession may be, I so enjoy browsing through the "What's New" items, marveling at who the people behind the item may be, and taking the occasional trip down memory lane. But most, I enjoy making my trash somebody else's treasure (and vice versa).
I'd like to end with some food for thought:
Yerdle claims that: "80% of the items in our homes are used less than once a month, and self-storage is up 1,000% over the past 30 years. Yerdle's mission is to reduce the durable consumer goods we all need to buy by 25%. Why shop when you can share?"
Will you be at the Social Shake-Up Conference in Atlanta, in September? Jeremiah Owyang will present the keynote: What the Collaborative Economy Means for the Future of Business.