An Introduction to the Advice Economy

In today’s world everyone has access to more information, facts, stats and content than we can possibly consume in a single lifetime, all available instantly at our fingertips. We lead our lives at an ever increasingly fast pace and our time is near permanently saturated. The way we run our lives and our expectations of the products and services we use has fundamentally changed.

Recently this has seen a rise in on-demand business models which leverage the power of the internet and mobile technology to connect demand with supply in real-time. Companies like Uber, Airbnb and Deliveroo all rely on this broad macro trend.

The move towards instant consumer gratification is only set to increase and this will permeate all businesses over time. But what about the world of professional services? How does this cultural shift apply to knowledge workers? What happens to people who earn a living by relying on the knowledge they have gained, studied for and earned over time.

There is a new economy emerging around knowledge work which addresses this fundamental shift in consumer expectations. There is a growing phenomenon of customers seeking advice and experience from experts in a specific field, who are turning to technology to bring “on-demand” like convenience to the world of advice.

This is the rise of the Advice Economy.

What is the Advice Economy?

The Advice Economy describes any business or service that connects advice-seeking consumers with professionals through technology. From plumbers and mechanics to doctors, travel experts and vets.

Whilst the provision of and payment for professional advice and knowledge is not a new concept (just think of legal or financial services), the technology jigsaw pieces have finally come together. Now, for the first time in history we have the possibility of unlocking vast reserves of untapped wisdom and experience across many different fields of human activity.

In an age of information overload, the ability to seek advice from experienced guides to solve problems presents highly exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators. From home improvement and travel to lifestyle and financial advice, brands operating in the Advice Economy are able to establish peer-to-peer services that can provide real-time personalised access to trusted advisors.

Driving forces behind the Advice Economy

There are a number of wider societal trends that are driving the rise of the Advice Economy. These include: Information overload; near ubiquitous internet connectivity; the rise in favourability for freelance working; an ageing population; and the increasing desire for instant gratification — an on-demand lifestyle.

Let’s explore each of them in turn.

Information Overload

We live in an age of information liberation and information overload. More information is available to more of us than ever before. As one example of that Google now performs over 1 trillion searches every year, living up to their mission statement — ‘to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’.

“5 exabytes of information were created from the dawn of time to 2003, now that happens every 2 days.” — Eric Schmidt

This exponentially expanding information repository is an immensely powerful thing, yet it means consumers can be faced with an ever growing mountain to climb to find the advice that they need.

It’s a classic case of signal vs noise. How do you cut through the clutter (the ‘noise’ — vast quantities of vaguely relevant generic content) to find the right answer to your specific problem (the signal — personal, contextual, well informed and well intentioned advice)? If only you could ask a friend, someone in the know, someone who had made this particular field their specialism. Someone with the right kind of wisdom.

Ubiquitous Connectivity

The Advice Economy is predicated on connecting the layman with the expert. This is only possible when a decent standard of internet connectivity is available. As broadband and mobile phone penetration have reached a critical mass in the UK and many parts of the developed world this is no longer a barrier. For the first time ever it is possible to connect people together cost effectively and speedily via video calls or live chat.

Over 80% of UK adults have access to broadband — Ofcom. Q1 2015

This connectivity is providing the technology platform for the rise of the Advice Economy.

Lifestyle Working

Gone are the days of being chained to the office desk 9–5. The need to be physically present to meet people is declining with the uptake in video conferencing and virtual reality.

For a long time to come there will be a need for face-to-face communication and hands on implementation but if there was a way for skilled professionals to profit from the expertise they have gained throughout their career in a far more convenient way would they still see the value in the daily commute and of living in overcrowded cities?

More and more people are choosing a flexible approach to work through freelancing.

In the US, 53 million people are freelancing. By 2020 this is set to rise to 60 million (40% of the working population).

In the UK, 78% of the UK public think that flexible working helps promote a good work/ life balance and the freelancing economy is already worth an estimated £21 billion.

This desire for greater flexibility in working lives is driving the Advice Economy and is only set to grow.

Ageing Population

We are living longer. It’s a simple fact driven by a rise in living standards and medication. It’s something we should celebrate.

In the UK, the proportion of people over the age of 65 now represents a significant segment of the population (c.15%). The long term trend is for this to almost double over the next thirty years.

With the rising cost of living, a rising state pension age and a looming pension crisis, many people will have to continue working long after they might have planned to retire when they started their careers.

10 million people in the UK are over 65 years old. This is set to rise to 19 million by 2050. UK Parliament — 2015

The wonderful thing in this is that those with a lifetime of experience are far and away best placed to provide advice to others, just as elders have done to indigenous tribes the world over for millennia. Through the lens of the Advice Economy there is a vast ocean of experience and wisdom that can be unlocked and used by consumers.

On demand

As lives get busier and busier consumers are starting to realise that their most precious asset is time. This is driving an increasing global impatience and represents huge opportunities for entrepreneurs to provide long established services in refreshingly convenient ways through the use of smart technology.

This disruption establishes a new norm and in turn increases the expectation levels of consumers towards the instant fix.

From the rise of on demand entertainment services like Netflix and Spotify to Uber, Amazon Prime and Deliveroo — the list of direct to consumer brands offering instant gratification has exploded over the last 10 years.

The desire for instant fixes from a trusted source is driving the Advice Economy.

The Advice Economy in action

There are already a number of start-up businesses across multiple sectors focused on providing services in the Advice Economy.

DAD — the home of practical advice

DAD is focused on fixing up your home by providing DIY and home repair advice. DAD was founded on the central belief that knowledge is the ultimate power tool. A sentiment that resonates well with all Advice Economy businesses. DAD operates a remote network of the very best DIY and home repair specialists and connects them with people in need via video call. This flips the traditionally supply centric home services model on it’s head, empowers the customer and is possible purely by taking advantage of the driving forces behind the Advice Economy.
[Full disclosure: The author is the founder and CEO of DAD]

Paw Squad — Trusted vets at your fingertips

PawSquad offer pet owners on demand access to affordable professional advice, guidance and care without the hassle of traveling to a brick and mortar vet centre.

Their telemedicine service enhances customer experience and clinical outcomes by providing better access to veterinary know how. Whether it be in moments of uncertainty, general questions or for follow ups from their home visit service.

Francesco Cardoletti, Co-Founder and CEO of Paw Squad commented: “Whilst telemedicine has been used by the medical profession for years to help provide long distance care and assessments for human patients it’s not been widely adopted in the veterinary space. What we are creating with Paw Squad is a great example of the Advice Economy and is simply a better fit with our hectic lifestyles — plus it’s cheaper on the wallet.”

The Advice Economy brings many benefits

The Advice Economy brings numerous benefits to both sides of the supply and demand marketplace.

Easy access to wisdom

The Advice Economy enables consumers to easily access wisdom and advice from a wide range of experienced artisans and service providers.

As an extreme example of this, picture a special forces agent storming a building to capturer a bad guy (yes, OK, I’ve watched too much 24). Your watching the action live via video camera from a military base miles away and as the commanding officer you can provide instruction and advice to your troops on the ground.

Let’s face it most of us aren’t in the special forces yet, having that kind of of advice and guidance relayed to you in real time, regardless of what task you are performing can be immensely valuable. It’s also not something that will be automated by computers any time soon. In most circumstances the context, years of experience, environmental factors and desired outcome of the end user all need to be taken into account. That requires human intelligence.

Creating new jobs and wealth

The Advice Economy unlocks jobs and wealth for people who want to share their knowledge and experience with the wider world.

Flexible work opportunities

The Advice Economy enables people to work when and where they want — opening up opportunities for the disabled and retired, or those seeking flexible work that fits around their lifestyle and social tolerance.

Lower environmental impact

The Advice Economy helps to reduce the consumption of resources/ carbon footprint by providing advice directly over the Internet.

The impact of the Advice Economy

There is another macro trend occurring right now that we haven’t discussed so far, which will also contribute to the rise of the Advice Economy, that is the move towards career specialism. Once it becomes effortless to gain access to a multitude of skills you can focus on what you do best.

This is not a new concept — it’s what drove the rise of the trades in village communities for centuries. Back then a baker would bake the best bread, a blacksmith make the best horseshoes and the thatcher would keep your roof in good order. This worked well but was naturally constrained geographically to the local community.

The internet, mobile technology and social media unlock this tried and tested model yet allow us to operate on a global scale. That permits geographic freedom for all and ensures you get access to the world’s best resources not just the best in your community.

The Advice Economy is still in it’s infancy but already shows signs that it will have a profound effect on how we all live our lives.

Keen for more?
Whether you are a business that operates in this space would would like to join our growing circle; are from the media and are keen to tell the Advice Economy story or if you just want to learn more. Get in touch: hello@adviceeconomy.com and lets chat.

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