On any given night in just about any given city across the U.S., you’re likely to catch a glimpse of something strange parading through the bar district.
Half a dozen loud and laughing people, facing each other, pedaling furiously — and probably enjoying a beer. It’s a strange sight to behold, and one that makes you question for their safety (or sanity) before realizing that there’s someone who’s not drinking behind the actual steering wheel.
This is a pedal tavern, also known as a pedal pub or cycle pub, and now comprises a booming industry all over the country, providing on-demand trips through town in a unique and booze-permitted way.
This entire concept sprung seemingly out of nowhere just 20 years ago, invented in Norway around 1997.
These kinds of new and emerging industries aren’t rare today. In fact, they’re emerging directly from the needs and wants of a younger generation of consumers.
Millennials — those born between 1980 and 2000 — are shaping the world in new and different ways, demanding different kinds of services and products that meet their needs in a changing economy. They’re reshaping the world of business because they rarely follow traditional consumer behavior.
This is generally characterized as the sharing economy — and it’s a very big and real economic trend.
Unlike prior generations, many members of this group claim they value experiences more than possessions. They rent rather than own. Their primary methods of communication are passive, not active. They share things like cars, homes, and office space — and that’s okay with them.
And that means big changes for businesses and the economy.
Digital first and always
Possibly the most defining characteristic of the millennial generation is that they’re the first generation to grow up as digital natives. Even the oldest of millennials lived in an internet-connected world by the time they were in middle school, and the youngest of the group have never lived in a world without Google.
So it’s no secret to say that millennials are a technology-and-digital-first generation. They’ve always had access to many of the tools and technology that we know and use today. To them, they’re normal, not new.
Because of this, the kind of on-demand businesses that use the capabilities of the internet to make planning and scheduling simpler and easier are fully embraced by this generation. Millennials would overwhelmingly prefer to book something like a pedal pub through an online form than over the phone.
Digital means aren’t just preferred, they’re default.
Although easy for the user, this can sometimes make things more complicated for business owners. In the case of the pedal tavern industry, it requires coordinating reservations coming from multiple sources, managing vehicle availability, chasing down legal documents, and then making sure the driver actually shows up when and where they’re supposed to.
This is one of the reasons why a service like Apptoto exists. It was created to streamline the management process and make the work of running businesses simpler in a world of digital natives, because providing always-on, on-demand service is difficult without the use of the technology.
In a world with devices in every pocket, digital natives have come to rely on technology more and more to help them move throughout the world. One not-so-surprising use of that technology is the use of alerts and reminders for scheduling and events.
Automation is now a commonplace tool for helping people remember pressing tasks or appointments as they go throughout their day. The main selling point for these services is that they’re there when you need them — providing a nudge about your 11:30 appointment — but not in the way when you don’t.
Millennials are used to being always connected, accessible, and in communication with friends and families. Whether it’s through email, text message, or Facebook, most people are involved in multiple ongoing conversations at any given time.
And the sharing economy is facilitated, in large part, by the use of this seamless communication: lines that are always open, messaging that’s always on.
This is also a strategic advantage for many companies, offering a way for them to keep in touch in real time and also to build long-term relationships with their best customers.
Time is precious
Ultimately, much of the allure of the sharing economy boils down to the fact that time is precious.
Our world moves faster than ever, and on-demand services and products ensure that we get the things we need at exactly the time we need them and never have to spend time worrying about them when we don’t.
This may seem like run-of-the-mill impatience, but it’s really something deeper. With the use of technology, we’re able to work or communicate from anywhere and at any time. This means wasted time is like a missed opportunity. Every second spent waiting to hail a cab or having an appointment that doesn’t start on time is a second that you can never get back.
And while these kind of expectations can seem unreasonable or difficult to manage for some businesses, they represent a new reality that likely won’t be going away anytime soon.
Luckily, technology enables any business owner to take a stake in the digital-first world and provide value to their customers in entirely new ways, sometimes even with just a few clicks of a mouse.
In this new economy powered by on-demand service, shared resources, and seamless communication, businesses must learn to master every second of every day with the use of smarter technology and better planning.