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Thought Leadership

Driving Platforms & Culture

Who’s the “gig worker”​? What’s next after ride share?

Ride share apps like Uber and Lyft are the #1 driver of the gig economy increase, totaling a whopping 90% of the 1% increase since 2016. The balance is a mix between emerging capital (i.e. AirBNB, Etsy) and labor/service (Care.com, Telemedicine) platforms. That said, the dramatic growth in ride share is forecasted to start to plateau; and inversely these alternate gig-based, Industry 4.0 categories are anticipated to start to scale up.

Economists Dr. Dmitri Koutsas, Assistant Professor at University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and Dr. Katherine Abraham, Professor of Economics, Survey Methodology at University of Maryland and Director of the Maryland Center for Economics and Policy, cite that most people begin this work in a time of economic hardship (i.e. unemployment, spending beyond means) and/or have a degree of existing job flexibility (i.e. military leave).

Beyond this, there is not much more data to help craft a solid demographic or attitudinal understanding of the gig-worker audience. Data we do have demonstrates a fairly even split of age / gender / ethnicity, with some heavy skew toward urban areas.

What does this mean for brands?

This opens the door for more, better analysis. For brands, whose success is grounded in resonating with their consumers, there’s opportunity to independently dig in and study the group at the forefront of Industry 4.0; how they’re shifting the culture and consumerism.

We need to start finding answers to questions: “who is the gig worker? (and what do they want/need?)” Additionally, what about the people they influence most — and most influence them; their families, colleagues and friends? Exploring the impact to the network of the gig based job will almost undoubtedly provide a broader perspective on how to better leverage and position our resources to craft a more thoughtful, impactful future in a shifting economic environment.

While there’s presently a large focus on ride sharing as the driver of this shift, given its majority share in growth, focus should start to hone in on the current 10% of the gig-based economy that’ll soon start to take larger precedence. How do alternate labor/service and capital platforms impact our current customer decision journey and daily operations?

Gleaning this insight will allow for more targeted and accurate brand storytelling — both from optimizing the function the brand can have in consumers’ lives, as referenced in Article 1, but also from an outbound marketing perspective. It goes without saying that creative messaging in campaigns is most successful when it genuinely reflects and relates to the audience’s life.

Two thought-starter considerations:

  • Telemedicine: As more medical resources emerge in support of rural areas, where does it make sense for brands to naturally enter the movement? For instance, one might infer that with the additional health information, there will be an increased demand for more diversified health-based brands like gyms, consumer packaged goods and personal care products that might not be currently targeted toward these regions.
  • Care Jobs: With a rapidly aging Baby Boomer population, currently the largest spending consumer audience, there will be an increased demand for care services, now democratized in access through technology. In this circumstance, the gig worker is often not only the caretaker, but also plays a large role in the purchase of goods / services necessitated by the person being cared for. Brands should explore ways in which they can understand the challenges and shopping patterns so they can better tailor their product/service and narrative to the worker’s needs and journeys.

This is the second of a five-part article series that covers the five key things to know about Industry 4.0 & the Gig Economy wherein I offer my perspective on implications and considerations for brand leaders. The introduction to the series can be found here. The next three topics include:

  • Gig Jobs aren’t replacing jobs, but driving more demand: Rather than putting traditional industries’ full-timers out of work, ride sharing, specifically, has actually created more of a demand for driving services.
  • Barriers to entry are low … but also high: Many attract to working with apps like Lyft / Uber and Etsy given the barriers to entry are extremely low — you can work when and how you need to, and don’t experience the barrier of potential discrimination through an interview process.
  • We need more education & resources: There are ~500,000 open positions for computer software engineers, but only ~50,000 forecasted computer software graduates.

This information cited is from a panel I had the opportunity to attend on 2/7/20: “Work, Employment, and the ‘App’ Economy,” hosted by Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and The Goodfriend Group.

Issue areas panelists covered include:

  • Whether the app/gig economy is creating jobs or destroying them
  • Impact of the app/gig economy on “traditional” full-time jobs
  • Characteristics and distribution of gig jobs and workers
  • Measurement and data sources of the shifting
  • If / how gig jobs should be regulated

Should you want to view the full event, find the recording linked here.

Letters To The Editor