It’s an exciting time for proponents of the “sharing economy,” a rapidly growing market that revolves around people buying, selling and sharing products and services with each other.

New examples of this business model are showing up every day. Take Lyft, for example, aSan Francisco-based peer-to-peer ridesharing app that allows car owners to make some extra cash by offering taxi-style rides in exchange for donations. When it comes to travel lodging, consumers are showing more of an inclination to bypass chain hotels in favor of options like Airbnb, which allows property owners to rent out extra rooms in locations around the world.

Generally, it seems consumers are beginning to demonstrate a growing preference for new and different modes of consumption that emphasize conservation and sharing over more traditional — and often wasteful — ways of offering these necessary services.

The sharing economy also encourages consumers to connect directly with each other. This is certainly part of the trend’s overall appeal — it’s no surprise that most buyers admit to trusting people more than brands. With that in mind, what can existing businesses take away from the success of the sharing model to improve their own buyer-seller relationships, whether or not they’re jumping on the sharing economy bandwagon?

Perhaps the most important trend is that consumers are starting to demand a greater level of empowerment in their business transactions. The amount of buyer control and autonomy made available by the sharing economy is enormously appealing, and expectations will evolve in the coming years. Existing companies will benefit greatly from integrating practices that allow consumers to actively make choices about the products and services they’re receiving.

Similarly, in terms of public relations, businesses will be wise to leverage their communication channels to focus on “humanizing” themselves. There are many ways to accomplish this, but social media and blog content can be the most effective tools, creating a platform for more informal and personal communication. This may also mean taking a modified approach to customer service that emphasizes listening and shared experiences.

The sharing economy is likely to take us in some new and unexpected directions. Like it or not, the most successful companies will be the ones that quickly adapt to changing trends and consumer preferences. For now, this means focusing on offering consumers the autonomy and personalized attention they’ve been asking for.

Kristin Pugmire is a senior copywriter with ProPRcopy, a national leader in providing copywriting services to business and organizations across all types of industries.