Sharing economy accelerates as attitudes towards possessions change

The sharing economy is going to snowball, in part because people don’t want to own stuff anymore.

Fon, is an example of a company in the telecom sector that has embraced sharing.
Credit: Fon

If you’ve found yourself enjoying the liberating effect of throwing stuff away you may be surprised to learn that you are at the cusp of a major new trend: the days of possessing things are over.

I, for one, am enjoying the fact that whenever I move, I’m not lugging around (or paying other people to lug around) boxes of books and CDs.

That media, as we all know, is now found online. Ownership and rental of physical media was replaced by downloads followed by streaming.

Well, that cathartic junking of stuff is being taken further by many.

Smartphone as channel

Many people—particularly younger ones—are perfectly happy to share everything, a new report says. They don’t want to be tied down by possessions, prefer “experience” over stuff, and have adopted the Internet and smartphone as channel to whatever they need.

And that sharing includes peer-to-peer accommodation, pets, cars, and home-improvement power-tools. Technology and telecom verticals and products are ripe for adopting too.


If you think that Uber, the crowd-sourced taxi-replacement is the cutting-edge future, you may be surprised to hear about up-and-coming service, BlahBlahCar that lets people simply hitch a ride in someone else’s car. It’s an example of the business models getting even more collaborative between supplier and user.

Barriers to entry are low, thanks, in part, to consumers’ willingness to try new smartphone apps. Plus, consumers are becoming more used to the idea of communities of users.

Hospitality a la Airbnb; retail and consumer goods, like sporting equipment; automotive; entertainment; media; and communications are all in varying stages of sharing-economy implementation.

Collaborative consumption

Consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC, the publisher of the report, thinks that collaborative consumption, also known as the sharing economy, is one of society’s megatrends.

It says that 43 percent of respondents think “owning today feels like a burden.” Seventy-seven percent of U.S. millennials—those born between 1980 and 1995 aspire to a “paired down life,” according to the Times, writing about the report.

Digital platforms

Usually the app-based platforms connect spare capacity with demand. Digital platforms enable a more precise, real-time measurement of spare capacity than has been possible before, and they perform the dynamic connection of that capacity with those who need it, the report says.

Deep social interactions

Consumers who use sharing-economy business models are more comfortable with transactions that involve deep social interactions than with classic exchanges.

In other words, the more socially adept the user is online the more likely that user is to participate.

Trust is a crucial part of the model.

Tech industry

How to play? Well, that depends on whether you’re an incumbent in a mature industry or not. If you are, you need to avoid being disrupted, PwC says. Look out, if your consumers could band together in a peer network—communications, tech and telecoms are all susceptible.

Fon, is an example of a company in the telecom sector that has embraced sharing. It operates a system whereby its “members” allow others to use bandwidth on their home Wi-Fi routers, in exchange for gaining access at other routers, around the world.

Intellectual property

The sharing of intangible assets, through Intellectual tech property is a possible opportunity, the report says.

General Electric entered into a partnership with Quirky, an online inventor social network. The deal gave Quirky’s inventors access to GE’s numerous, latent patents and technology, resulting in joint-venture products, such as a smartphone-controlled air conditioner, that likely wouldn’t have gotten built otherwise.

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