The Internet has changed how we interact with each other and how consumers interact with brands. It's brought the world closer together and allowed people to share ideas and experiments with one another too.
And that could spell trouble for some businesses as consumers opt to exchange goods for free or cheap instead of buying them new.
This âproblem' is only exacerbated by the current economic climate where people have even less disposable income to make use of.
But is there really a need to feel threatened by such a movement happening across sites such as Gumtree, Freecycle, MySkip, Freegle, etc. Instead, try to embrace the culture and facilitate it.
According to Marketing Week, new research suggests that this sharing movement is becoming "an organised movement" and finds that 13 per cent of the UK's online population has used such a web service at some point.
Eight per cent have also used a website to rent out goods belonging to them, racking up an estimated market value of Â£1.1bn.
It's not restricted to goods either as sites like Spareroom, Blablacar and Airbnb have all taken off spectacularly to allow people to rent rooms, free spaces in car journeys and split holiday accommodation respectively.
The benefits to the seller/owner involved isn't just monetary as the social interaction benefits are also rather attractive too. Many state that it's a great way to meet like-minded people, and the peer-to-peer community is still rather small and filled with people who are both âin the know' when it comes to technology and find it easy to trust a stranger with their belongings.
But what can brands and retailers do about this growing phenomenon now then?
Well, it might be worthwhile investing in facilitating such exchanges as many people are looking to sell or give away their old belonging as they wish to purchase new ones but have no desire to profit from something old.
As you've probably worked out, this means that a prospective seller could buy their new wares from you, and you could help them find a buyer or a person to take their old items off them for free – or their desired cost.
Of course, you'd have to weigh up how useful this is for your business and if you feel that it's cost is worth the brand coverage you'd receive as you can't charge a consumer for the service – otherwise they'll just run off to the free services out the on the web already.
Still, there's the stick subject of legal regulation to deal with first – and the jury's still seemingly out on that one.
Ian Livesey – Flickr]