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The on-demand economy: an SME guide

The on-demand economy is not a recent phenomenon, but COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of the on-demand economy in various industries and caused disruptions which many businesses are trying to still understand. In this article we will define what is the on-demand economy, what does the workforce look like, and how can small businesses use the on-demand economy to build their business.

What is the on-demand economy?

According to, the on-demand economy can be defined as “an economic model driven by technology that allows businesses to fulfil customer demands immediately.” It has become more popular and lucrative in recent years because the on-demand economy tools satisfy the customer’s need for flexibility and instant access to information. But it must not be seen as a new way as the basic idea has been around since there has been a marketplace, but with technology, the marketplace has moved online and on to mobile devices.

What does the workforce look like?

With this new economy, the face of the workforce has changed. There are five basic types of people who participate in the on-demand economy. Intuit describes them as follows:

  • The career freelancer: the person who is happily creating work through independent jobs
  • The business builder: the person who is driven by the desire to be their own boss
  • The side giggers: the person who wants to be financially stable so looks for work to supplement their income.
  • The Passionistas: the person who is looking for the flexibility to do what they love.
  • The Substituters: the person who has lost their job and is looking for work but would be happier working in a company permanently.

Entrepreneurs fall into the category of business builders but may have some flavour from the other archetypes. A benefit of understanding the workforce is that you know who you are dealing with when you hire talent to do projects for your business.

How can the on-demand economy be used to build a business?

Uber, Netflix, and Mr D are all examples of companies that have adopted the on-demand economy business model. These businesses identified a need and produced a platform to bring the customer and business together. There are three characteristics for a business:

  • Hyperlocal: These businesses use your location and match you with a supplier who is the nearest to you. They focus on providing a service with those who are within the consumer’s immediate area,
  • Convenient: Many of these businesses are mobile apps which with a few swipes you can get the service you need. Their user interfaces are easy to navigate, and they are focused on providing one service excellently.
  • Personalised: Because of all the data which can be fed back to the company when you use the app, they can personalise the offering to suit the customer.

To be successful in the on-demand economy, you need to ensure you are more successful in these three characteristics than your competitors. Disrupt your industry today and design a platform that satisfies your customers’ needs quickly and conveniently.

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