Your Allies spoke to Collaborative Consumption Startup Ecomodo co-founder Tracy Currer as part of its entrepreneurship series because their online community marketplace stands out as a well thought through platform bringing people, businesses and local institutions together to share under-used items, space or even skills. We applaud their crusade against the status quo and towards a better use of our finite resources.
This article is part of Your Allies’s entrepreneurship series. We profile entrepreneurs and their business concepts and give our view on their marketing approach. There’s always something to learn from real startup and business growth experience!
What was your motivation to set up Ecomodo and what mission have you set yourself with it?
“Our motivation was 2-fold: Firstly, Meriel, my co-founder, had a short term need for a tool. Buying a new one was expensive and wasteful when many elsewhere would be sitting idle … but how to find them?
And secondly, having worked in the product development industry for many years, I hope to change consumer behaviour through helping people to think of household products as assets and not just throw-away. In turn, Ecomodo can start to shift manufacturers away from disposability by increasing the market for robustness.
Ultimately, we want Ecomodo to be the first place people turn to when they have an occasional need for goods, skills or spaces. Through increasing access to resources, Ecomodo provides new opportunities whilst decreasing the environmental impact of the lives we aspire to.”
Your Allies says…We are big proponents of sensible concepts such as cradle-to-cradle and the Circular Economy that promote smarter product design and better use of resources. Ecomodo’s service makes sense for consumers and for businesses and benefits a more sustainable use of existing shareable items.
What makes Ecomodo unique, unlike any direct and indirect competitors?
“Our biggest competitors are “inertia” and the “status quo”. Changing the way people choose to do the things is never an easy task. With that said, from our initial research, we built Ecomodo around six core components to elicit trust, motivate diverse audiences and provide a solid legal framework alongside a sustainable business model that sets Ecomodo apart from other start-ups in this field.
1. A combination of gifting, micro-enterprise and fundraising provides a unique motivation model to drive critical mass across diverse audiences so the density of items in a local area becomes truly compelling.
2. Lending circles enable individuals to choose to restrict their lending to circles of people with whom they have a basis for trust or wish to lend to (e.g. friends, neighbourhoods, school, workplaces, community groups).
3. Our new Insurance model (delivered through RSA) enables lenders to opt for insurance cover for accidental loss or damage of goods.
4. Fuzzy location specification protects members’ location whilst enabling effective local searching.
5. Our scalable infrastructure and intuitive interface hides the underlying legal, technical and functional complexity making Ecomodo easy to use.
6. Feedback and ratings support lenders’ and borrowers’ decisions and builds visible social capital.”
Your Allies says… It’s very interesting to see Ecomodo view learned consumer behaviour as a competitor. What this tells us is how seriously they take the challenge of changing the status quo. As with any business concept, research into customer needs and expectations is key. Ecomodo has used its customer insight to tackle the issue of people feeling confident in using a peer-to-peer marketplace with their distinct formula: a combination of monetary incentives such as earning an additional income and charitable giving plus trust-building through closed lending groups, privacy protection, user ratings plus security in the form of optional insurance.
What is your business strategy to accomplish your mission?
“To achieve our mission we have a 2-tiered plan.
1) Establish our peer-to-peer market
Our aim is to provide operational excellence and work with a host of organisations to inspire and extend our reach. We plan to enhance Ecomodo to provide the most efficient and secure way for anyone to lend idle resources directly to others throughout all levels of our society. In turn bringing countless benefits and opportunities to our citizens, neighbourhoods, schools, charities, councils, business and organisations to live and work in a more economic and environmental way.
2) Evolve and expand Ecomodo’s capabilities to enable B2C and B2B commerce.
For example: A recycling officer seeing the cost saving for collecting pre-shredded garden waste, with minimum effort creates a customised service to lend shredders directly and promotes other shredders locally available whilst keeping their time and budget for education and communications. (B2C)
Or established businesses sharing their spaces, skills and equipment to small start-ups locally as they struggle to make ends meet at the beginning. (B2B)”
Your Allies says… A smart and systematic approach to integrating all potential market participants over time.
What marketing strategy have you put in place to reach your business objectives?
“At the core of our marketing approach is the potential for viral growth. Utilising ‘real world communities’ (such as workplaces, community groups etc) drives familiarity and trust at a very local level and promotes take-up.
With regard to price, a number of our competitors in the collaborative consumption arena, in order to monetise their services, are opting for users to pay upfront for adding items to lend or a subscription for use. We believe for a peer-to-peer service this creates a huge barrier to entry. For individuals to use Ecomodo, it is free to join and add items to lend, and therefore will be a cheaper option than our competitors. There are great potential cost efficiencies as we reach scale that will enable us to monitor our fees levels to stay competitive.
For us 3 other P’s are key: Performance, Personalisation & Pilots.
Performance: Ecomodo provides the most complete, peer-to-peer, transactional, lending and borrowing service in the world. No competitor offers the range of features Ecomodo has to motivate and drive confidence in lending and borrowing goods, skills and spaces.Our focus is on efficiency & trust.
Personalisation: From the ability for users to control who can request to borrow their stuff (now) to white labeled experiences – powered by Ecomodo (future), personalisation is key to enabling confident lending of idle resources.
Pilots: Our aim is to conduct a series focused pilots in order to find effective ways to market Ecomodo and demonstrate uptake.”
Your Allies says… Ecomodo is applying word-of-mouth and testing what works best, two typical start-up approaches that some traditional businesses have learned from. Economies of scale however is a traditional business strategy, here applied in a P2P/B2P environment to facilitate a competitive pricing strategy that not only helps secure their market position but also removes an entry barrier for users – an additional significant differentiator in addition to the six core components described above. We see their product strategy as being based on excellence on many levels: biggest range of features, focus on ease of use and personalisation options to instil trust and confidence in users.
What was your biggest challenge in developing Ecomodo so far and how did you overcome it?
“As I described before the biggest barriers are trust & inertia. With regard to both of these we designed Ecomodo in ways to overcome them, working within a very limited budget. We combat trust issues with lending circles to automatically control who can borrow stuff, security deposits, insurance and reputation building through feedback. To overcome inertia we enable people to lend not just for free but to make some money or fundraise for a charity.”
Your Allies says… We like Ecomodo’s consistent focus on their users and persistent attention to the big challenges (trust, inertia) in front of them. We found 404 items to borrow near our office address, from an iPad with proceeds going to The Prince’s Trust to a free paper shredder, and thousands more near our home addresses. This goes to show that Ecomodo have made great inroads in establishing a solid base of accessible items. Your Allies will follow Ecomodo’s further development, use the platform as much as possible and wish them the best of success in changing the status quo!
Ready for even more inspiration from real-life business experience? Check out the complete entrepreneurship series!
Photo credit: CC BY Markus Spiske / raumrot.com, published unchanged