According to consumer marketing and research three factors matter in consumers’ decisions in accessing a traditional outlet or shared economy platform. These are affordability, convenience and efficiency (Dillon 2016). Consumer surveys suggest that people switch fast to shared-economy for convenience and lower cost reasons (PWC 2015). The shared-based products and varieties are fast taking over a significant portion of the market. One of the pioneers in the consumer market is eBay that started its modest operation as online auctioneer of goods in 1995. It has become a multibillion dollars international corporations operating in 33 countries worldwide. In 2019-2020, its revenue was $10.7 billion (Celment 2020). Its earnings are primarily from the fees its collects from sellers and buyers that use its platform. It has a negative list of goods that cannot be traded, but other than anything can be sold and bought. The sellers post images of articles they wish to sell with a description of their conditions, prices and contact details. They mail the goods directly to the buyers. In this peer- to-peer transaction, eBay collects its fee. The net value calculated by the stock prices is estimated to be $43 billion in 2020; much lower than it was couple of years back (Okenwa 2020).
Today, eBay is not the only a player in the consumer market, offering interface between the buyers and sellers; Etsy and Rent the Runway are its second and third bigger competitors but more are likely to enter the consumer goods shared economy. In June 2020, the market value of Etsy was $11.32 billion and its stock price higher that the eBay (Macrotrends 2020). The Rent the Runaway is one of the most innovative of businesses; it rents designer dresses to women. Its value in 2019 was estimated to be $1 billion. It’s aiming to become an “Amazon Prime of Rentals” by expanding renting to goods like quilts, pillows and bedding, the daily use items (Maheshwari 2019).
Today, in every society, there is a large pool of workers with skills, experience, and diplomas certifying some expertise to perform certain services. The examples can be masons, carpenters, plumbers or accountants. We have seen that some of them would like to offer their services as part-timers to augment their incomes. It is utilisation of free available time according to one’s convenience. In the modern labour market, these workers are known as freelancers. As people would like to hire contractors for work after making sure they are getting someone who has requisite skills, experience, and credibility. Fiverr, Upwork and TaskRabbit are new digital economy brands that trade human expertise the way material goods traded in the marketplace. Fiverr alone provides freelance skilled labour in 300 categories. The TaskRabbit has very interesting ideas to offer to consumers from delivering groceries to help move from one place to another to home repairs fixing faucets and running errands (Taskrabbit 2020). The trend in hiring labour for a short time with the per hour wage announced and with the guarantee of the company appears to be growing. In 2014, about 25% of the American labour force was freelancing, which was estimated to double by the end of the decade. Flexibility of both the service provider as well as that of the consumer has been the driving force behind the expansion of online professional services.
How these services fare on equality, social justice and non-discrimination. If all factors are equal, a white worker is likely to be hired more often than a black or any other person of colour. There is also an issue of feedback that consumers give to the company after a task has been performed. Studies conducted so far suggest, blacks in the United States don’t get as high evaluation as the white workers hired for the same job. The profiling of the workers on website doesn’t make many people comfortable in societies where race and racial prejudices are issues (Hannak et al. 2017).