SnapGoods Turns Sharing With Neighbors Into a Business

By Features Business on Main

The recession has made consumers wary of impulse buying. SnapGoods makes it possible to borrow or rent out big-ticket items within your community.

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Have you ever bought an expensive item for a project, only to find that it never gets used again? Or perhaps you craved to test out a high-end product but weren’t ready to purchase it just yet? Remember when you needed that computer monitor, sewing machine, disco ball, mountain bike, guitar amp, sausage maker, solar backpack, chainsaw or waffle iron, but didn’t want to buy it?

Well, during such times of need, SnapGoods provides a platform to borrow or share products — and simultaneously meet your neighbors in the process.

“SnapGoods is the safest way to grab stuff you need from people nearby,” says SnapGoods CEO and co-founder Ron J. Williams. “Stores close — the community doesn’t. The real hole that I saw in the market was this profound, fundamental notion of access.”

Sharing goes social
Launched in March, New York City-based SnapGoods has effectively built a demand-driven social network for people’s needs, whether it’s renting out an infrequently used item or borrowing something instead of buying it.

Users select categories like electronics, tools, gadgets and music to find what they want to borrow or list what they want to share. Once users find what they’re looking for, the “buyers” and “sellers” negotiate the price and deposit amount in real time, then schedule a pickup. Meanwhile, SnapGoods handles the insurance and security, earning 7 to 10 percent of the transaction fee.

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“The notion is that when you’re better connected to your community, you get stuff more affordably and make new friends,” Williams says. He notes there is another major benefit as well — the chance to test out products before purchasing them. “You get to experience products and touch them and use them to see if they fit into your life.”

Available nationwide, SnapGoods was established for major cities with high population densities. Competitors abound in the “sharing” arena, including such companies as Rentalic and NeighborGoods. But it’s a young industry, and none of the businesses has a clear or distinct lead yet.

“We’re still no way near the point of being fully adopted as a mainstream activity,” says Williams. “We’ve got to let [consumers] know that there’s another alternative to just ‘I don’t have it.’ It’s about activating people to activate their networks.”

Sharing is caring … and cheap
For many, borrowing and renting products locally is both budget-friendly and socially conscious. SnapGoods came in handy for HomeShopr CEO Hermann Mazard. He rented an iPad to facilitate digital check-ins for an event he hosted. He needed the iPad just once and couldn’t justify the cost of purchasing it outright.

“The ability to rent before you own allows consumers and the people around them to better understand the benefits of a product in ways a print ad or a television commercial can't communicate,” says Mazard. “I envision business partners or spouses using the SnapGoods service to justify high-end purchases when one decision-maker is initially unsure.”

Mazard had such a good experience as a renter that he also signed up to share a digital camera and turkey fryer.

“I’m happy to charge $3 to $25 a day to get some money, any money, for the stuff I only use once in a while,” Mazard says. “It otherwise would be sitting idly in a closet gathering dust.”

The future of SnapGoods?
SnapGoods is catching on in creative communities, specifically with bands, photographers, gadget geeks and indie filmmakers. Williams says the tipping point for his company will revolve around increased awareness and user engagement. One possibility is positioning the SnapGoods platform as a marketing channel, where companies can let consumers try out commercial products with the help of distribution partners.

For Williams, he’ll know his company is in a good place when people start to use its name as a verb. As in, “Did you Snap it?”

“When you think about how you acquire goods, how you get tasks done and how you do things,” says Williams, “what we really want is to be on your dashboard of life.”

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