How Yerdle and Patagonia are boosting the sharing economy

As the collaborative economy gains traction, partnerships have formed to bolster this waste-reducing trend that keeps products and services flowing through a shared loop. One collaboration gaining fresh notice involves Yerdle, an online marketplace for exchanged goods, and Patagonia, the mega-retailer of outdoor clothing and gear.

The two first paired up in November for an anti-Black Friday event in San Francisco, during which items brought for sharing on Yerdle could be exchanged for a free item from Patagonia's pre-used Worn Wear collection. The same day, Worn Wear products also were put up for grabs on the Yerdle app.

Since then, the two have continued to support one other's mutual interest in the burgeoning sharing economy. In addition to customers exchanging Patagonia goods on Yerdle, Patagonia contributes excess Worn Wear products from its warehouses. Meanwhile, Yerdle promotes these products to its customers. Currently, Yerdle hosts nearly 1,000 Patagonia products, which are among the 10 most popularly exchanged goods on the site. 

Nellie Cohen, corporate environmental associate at Patagonia, says the collaboration provides natural synchronicity with the brand's aims. "What we're trying to do with Worn Wear is help our customers get the most out of stuff they already own," she said. "With Yerdle, we can further engage with customers in the sharing space."

Here's why this partnership works — and how other companies can follow suit to participate in the growing collaborative economy.

A mutually beneficial partnership

Through their collaboration, both Yerdle and Patagonia have gained significant market advantages. Patagonia products, generally regarded to be of high quality, add cache to Yerdle's product stream. They also create what Andy Ruben, co-founder of Yerdle, calls a "flywheel effect"; when people see Patagonia products on the site, they're more inclined to add their own Patagonia items to the stream. 

At the same time, Patagonia is able to showcase its commitment to durable, high-caliber products, reaching both new and existing customers who see that its products boast a long life cycle. In addition to exposure on the Yerdle site, customers frequently talk about Yerdle products on Pinterest, Facebook and other social media channels, further extending reach and brand loyalty.

Jeremiah Owyang, chief catalyst at Crowd Companies, a council dedicated to helping companies tap into the collaborative economy, says the Yerdle partnership allows Patagonia to showcase a "commitment to sustainability by encouraging the sharing of used goods over buying anew, proof of durable goods, and proof of a thriving community around its brand."

Both Yerdle and Patagonia are engaging with the collaborative economy movement in other ways as well. Each, for instance, works with ifixit — a global community of people helping each other fix things — to repair used items.

Yerdle also works closely with other brands known for durable items, including the San Francisco-based bag company Timbuk2. "Similar to Patagonia, this company will stand behind its products, regardless of time since the initial purchase," Ruben said.

The collaborative economy takes off

The Yerdle-Patagonia partnership is one of many at the heart of a sharing economy movement that's reshaping how people interact with their stuff. The market has proliferated to include everything from pre-used products (led by sites such as Yerdle, Threadflip and, of course, ebay) to transportation services (Uber, Lyft, Sidecar) to places to stay (airbnb, HomeAway). A recent Crowd Companies survey revealed anticipated growth throughout the sharing economy between the end of 2013 and the end of 2014, including an anticipated 46 percent boost in the sharing of pre-owned goods. 

There are multiple reasons this trend is taking off. Not having to purchase new products or services, of course, saves money. Environmental benefits include a reduction in waste and supply-chain impacts. And through sharing with others, customers gain a sense of community often lost in the traditional marketplace experience. 

Beyond these advantages, the trend is also asking companies to rethink how they design products in the first place. "From a product lifestyle perspective, it comes down to how we are designing for reusability, and how we can ensure that the things we make as a brand live a really long life," Cohen said of Patagonia. 

As the sharing economy grows, Ruben envisions other companies adopting a similar mentality. In the future, he says, we "will see brands spending more energy designing for hand-offs." 

This kind of thinking will help not only brand loyalty and sustainability, but also customers engaging in the sharing process. The question, Ruben says, is this: "How many people can one Patagonia jacket keep warm?"

Photo of second-hand fleece pants from Patagonia's Worn Wear collection via Instagram