Business models in the Sharing Economy: An exploration of how established companies can develop novel business models suited for the Sharing Economy

Julie Wanning Tvede & Maria Christensen

Studenteropgave: Kandidatafhandlinger


The sharing economy is an emerging force in modern commerce and one that has shown the potential to disrupt heavily entrenched traditional business sectors such as hospitality and transport. The question is – how far can this disrupting influence reach? The companies at the vanguard of this revolution are internet start-ups, which operate primarily by providing a platform where collaborators can meet and transact. As it is not plausible to assume that existing companies can adapt the same business model as internet start-ups, this poses the question as to if and how they can enter the sharing economy, and by extension, what business model they should apply. This thesis set out to explore whether it was possible to develop a business model framework with generic business models that existing companies wishing to enter the sharing economy could use as a foundation to build their company specific business models on In order to fulfil the purpose of this thesis it was first necessary to establish a relevant theoretical foundation. This is formed from a basis of the most up to date thinking from the business literature supplemented by findings from a thought experiment presented here: Collaboration Town. Collaboration Town is an imaginary community created by the authors of this thesis to portray the needs of the consumers and then identify the products and services they consumed that could be classified as being shareable. Firstly the theoretical based literature review provides the basis for developing a relevant business model framework. Secondly the results of the Collaboration Town process revealed what product and service characteristics are best suited for sharing and which generic business models should be further developed from the framework. The business model extracted from the business model framework consisted of three components: Value proposition, operational value chain and financial model. The business model along with the results from Collaboration Town resulted in generic business models suited for sharing economy in the categories: Properties, expensive products cheap products, expensive services and cheap services. In order to test the potential for these generic business models to provide a suitable foundation for going on to develop company specific business models, this process was pursued for three of the generic business models in a company specific context. The companies selected were Toyota (expensive products), Black & Decker (cheap products) and Rentek (expensive services) with the assumption that the resulting business models would be adopted as secondary business models. They were then tested by conducting semi-structured expert interviews with a qualified representative from each of the exemplified companies. Whilst the scope of this thesis only allowed for this process to be explored for a single company operating within each category, and can therefore not be viewed as truly representative of the entire population, it was nonetheless possible to extract a number of important learnings and conclusions from the research. The knowledge learned from the interviews revealed both support and criticism of the generic business models, suggesting that they did not sufficiently provide a foundation on which to build company specific secondary business models. In addition to identifying a number of elements that were too context specific and therefore not suitable for a generic model, it was clear that it was also necessary to add an extra component cluster, to address the concept of how the companies could find and target their potential consumers. These findings were then used to further revise the business model framework resulting in a new suggestion to what form a foundation could take in a format that avoided some of the pitfalls highlighted by the interview process. This revised model is believed to provide a practical and relevant guide for existing companies wishing to expand their operations to exploit the sharing economy. Service Management, (Kandidatuddannelse) Afsluttende afhandling
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