If you thought social commerce was only about the exchange of goods for cash, think again. Barter site Swap.com turns that notion on its head with the introduction of a sharing economy model.
Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Boston, MA, Swap.com allows its 450,000 members to trade books, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs and video games with other users.
“Swap.com is leading the swap movement both online and in communities across the world. We bring people together to swap their stuff through our website, mobile app, local events, homes, schools, and co-branded partnerships,” says the company’s website.
The fast growing site has, to date, seen nearly 4 million swaps, saved its members nearly $13 million and, with its emphasis on positively impacting the environment, has reduced carbon footprint by over 11 million pounds.
How big a deal is this and what is its impact on social commerce?
Swap.com thinks it’s a big deal. “Today, Swapping is in vogue and it is the essence of Social Commerce. A lot of people have a lot of stuff, the equivalent of trillions of dollars’ worth of merchandise,” states the website. “Your unused stuff is of great value to someone somewhere, and can be used as currency to get additional things you want.”
Mainstream media thinks its a big deal, too. The site has been covered by almost all the major news purveyors from broadcast media to print to digital. I’m talking about CNN, New York Times, ABC, Forbes, MSNBC and the list goes on. As can be seen in the following video, ABCNews’ Good Morning America went so far as to suggest that online swapping would replace online shopping.
A similar question was asked by Paul Marsden in a previous SCT post – Selling Into the Sharing Economy: The Next Big Trend in Social Commerce?. In his case, the question was how the sharing economy of collaborative consumption could help vendors sell products.
For online retailers, that is a crucial question given that the sharing economy model is estimated to be a $110 billion market over the next few years.
His conjecture is to combine two trends – sharing and subscription selling: “For example, whilst we love our Wired and Economist magazine subscriptions, we often don’t have the time to read every edition. Why not allow consumers to share a subscription with a friend or colleague – each accessing every second edition?,” he says. Paul calls it a “creative space” within social commerce. Certainly, it’s an idea worth exploring.
Swapping behavior supersedes recession
In these recessionary times, swapping might be seen as an attractive alternative to making purchases outright. However, according to a Forbe’s article citing Swap.com CEO Jeff Bennett, the recession is not the main driver.
“The dynamic is access versus ownership, and that’s an emerging tenet for consumers, it is a bigger driver than recession,” says Bennett. “People have acquired many, many items during that period when it was easy to get them. Millennials in particular have a strong driver here. How can I get what I need without buying it.”
Swap.com is only one of a genre of swapping sites. Others include Swapstyle.com (fashion clothing), Itamos (home exchange), and BookMooch (book trading). Even Craigslist could be numbered among the many that exist.
Swapping goods and services has been around for thousands of years. Thanks to sites like Swap.com, its entered the digital age. Though its effect on social commerce remains to be seen, doubtless the idea holds great appeal to millions of people.