Sharing Economy Business Models : Addressing the design-implementation gap

Abstract: Despite sharing being a long-practiced form of consumption, the concept ‘sharing economy’ has emerged only recently. New business models have proliferated, utilising technology to reduce transaction costs and facilitate shared access. Societal actors have taken interest in the sharing economy, to reduce resource consumption, foster social cohesion, and support the economy. However, sharing economy business models facilitate a wide array of consumption practices, including sharing, renting, borrowing, lending, bartering, swapping, trading, exchanging, gifting, buying second-hand, and even buying new goods. Past academic research and media attention tend to focus on unicorns such as Airbnb and Uber. There is greater need to explore the diverse permutations of business models within the sharing economy, especially considering sustainability.However, a gap exists between the design and successful implementation of sharing economy business models. This research aims to advance and structure knowledge about the sharing economy and sustainable business models, by using business modelling methods to study the design and implementation of sharing economy business models. Inspired by design science, this research engages in prescriptive theory-building and design- oriented research to construct and evaluate design artefacts. Incorporating data materials from people, documents, and literature, the research strategies of grounded theory and desk research are utilised to support methods for data collection and data analysis.The research proposes a prescriptive definition of the sharing economy as a socio-economic system that leverages technology to mediate two-sided markets, which facilitate temporary access to goods that are under- utilised, tangible, and rivalrous. From this, four design principles guide the formation of the sharing economy business model framework, which capture three value dimensions, sixteen business model attributes, and eighty- nine configuration options. This research proposes a coherent design theory to support the conceptualisation of sharing economy business models for sustainability.Additional artefacts are developed to support the successful implementation of these business models. First, business model patterns provide the justificatory knowledge to select relevant business model attributes in specific contexts. Then, a systematic framework measures the social impact of sharing platforms across four aspects – trust, empowerment, social justice, and inclusivity. Finally, organisational response strategies to COVID-19 are established in the sharing economy.The primary contribution of this research is conceptual, with additional modest methodological and empirical contributions. Furthermore, the artefacts are intended to be useful for research and practice, including scholars, entrepreneurs, managers, policymakers, investors, users, and concerned citizens.