Home consumption: The rise of the sharing economy

26.08.2016

Written By: Laure Canon, Bruce Langfield and Min-Hyung Choi

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We have had some wonderful interns recently, adding real value to the BAMM insight stream. Here’s a think piece that Laure Canon, Bruce Langfield and Min-Hyung Choi worked collaboratively to write. Bruce and Min-Hyung are graduates from Adam&EveDDB and did a fantastic job here. We wish them all the best for the future. Here’s some of their thinking…

We are materialists. We constantly buy stuff and then throw it out, to buy new stuff again. Nonetheless, we’re becoming more conscious about our impact as a consumer. The era of consumption is slowly being replaced by a new kind of trading. Consumer’s want to more actively participate in the market and the idea of collaboration and sharing goods is increasingly influencing the way we consume.

Traders get stuck in at Hackney Flea Market
Traders get stuck in at Hackney Flea Market

Within this changing shift, three core trends are emerging:

1. We don’t want to own “stuff” anymore

Since the 2008 economic crisis, our attitudes and habits have changed. Today only 16% of British people agree with the statement “I measure my success by the things I own”. Before the crisis it was 36%.

The economy has a direct impact on our behaviour. The double whammy of fewer jobs and higher student loan debt, have caused Millennials to become more frugal and actively reconsider the role that material possessions have in their lives. 25% of 18-27 year olds say their shopping behaviour has ‘changed significantly’ since the recession.

Products are increasingly seen as things that should be used rather than possessed. And if we’re we’re not using them, they should be passed on to someone who will. This is why websites such as Freecycle, Quirky and Etsy, are becoming so popular.

Today we are less sentimental about the objects we own and increasingly see them as items to trade rather than things to keep. Keeping “stuff” you don’t need is an unnecessary luxury. People avoid making objects sentimental. Experiences are now the things that you can consume but cannot be taken away from you.

2. We want to be part of a community

In her book What’s Mine is Yours, Rachel Botsman defines the term ‘Collaborative Consumption’. Thanks to new technologies and online communities, forms of exchanging between independent individuals are booming.

Due to the rise in collaborative consumption, a shift has developed in the way consumers think and interact with each other. We are no longer just consumers. We have now moved to a producer-consumer position: Prosumers. We want to produce what we want to consume. We desire to be part of the production loop because the Internet gives us the power to expose and share our ideas.

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The Sharing economy takes root from the ‘participatory culture’  defined by Harry Jenkins as “a culture in which fans and other consumers are invited to actively participate in the creation and circulation of new content.” But according to Botsman’s book, the sharing economy is also the idea of using uncommon production solutions to foster an equal relationship between producers and consumers, which creates the sense of belonging to a community.

The Prosumer wants to belong to a community by interacting with new people and participating in culture and local experiences.

Moreover, this ‘super-consumer’ is an active contributor to the market and emphasises a shift to personalisation and individuation.

3. Trading getting personal

In more recent times, the shift from professionalised, ‘faceless’ selling on the likes of gum tree and eBay have given way to more socially based micro trading in the form of Etsy and Depop. Etsy claims that only 30% of their 6,000 active users are VAT registered, which suggest their user base are becoming traders on a part time or hobby basis.

Depop has harnessed the social connectivity element from the likes of Facebook and adapted it for the world of 2nd hand clothing. Users can like, share and swap their goods through the app, with profiles curated in a Facebook style. Popular cultural influencers such as Oliver Proudlock and Chiara Ferragni are also predominant users, which allows followers the opportunity to trade and ‘prosume’ with these influential icons.

The feeling of being part of this group also has a strong emotional benefit, which means brands getting involved can build a deep and long-lasting relationship with their audience. Ben & Jerry’s actively interacts with their community online and offline. On social media, the interaction between the brand and the community goes beyond the product. For instance, during the campaign #CaptureEuphoria, most of the submitted photos included ice cream.

Brands are beginning to understand the power of the prosumer, and adapt their behaviour in order to understand the needs of the modern buyer. H&M offers their Conscious Service where people take in old clothes for discount. And even the banking sector has their players. Sumday, a financial start up, offers customers the chance to save money every time they use the hashtag #Sumday while sharing content on Instagram.

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Conclusion

Our way of consuming has completely changed since the global economy has crashed. We had to find new way to consume by being cleverer and more economical. This lead to the rise of the micro trading phenomenon. The day an object doesn’t serve a purpose we sell it to our neighbours. “What goes around comes around.” Depop, Quirky, Etsy are exciting consumer trader websites who are now competing with the big giant, eBay.

More and more people are valuing the idea of sharing their possessions within a community they judge as being reliable, by looking at the numbers of stars or fans online.

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