Many of the benefits offered by sharing platforms align with the new needs and priorities of consumers. Specifically, the need for convenience and associated appeal of online shopping, as well as a growing commitment to sustainability will continue to drive new opportunities in the sharing economy.
Listed below are the key consumer trends impacting the sharing economy theme, as identified by GlobalData.
In recognition of the scale and gravity of global environmental threats such as climate change, ozone depletion, biodiversity loss, urbanisation, and disease epidemics, consumer purchase preferences demonstrate a more purposeful commitment to embrace environmentally and socially responsible products and services. This continues to be a key facet of the sharing economy, given its ability to promote more sustainable consumption by facilitating use of underutilised assets, thus improving efficiency and saving resources.
Crucially though, it is evident that the sharing economy has evolved to place more importance on convenience rather than sustainability. Grocery delivery services, for example, simply substitute individual shoppers for hired gig workers to facilitate on demand delivery, rather than consolidating orders in larger trucks for potential emissions savings.
Closely aligned with sustainability consciousness is the backlash against the consumption habits that are responsible for humanity’s ecological footprint. This has manifested in a range of consumption shifts, from criticism of single-use packaging, the rise of “ugly produce,” and the surge in second-hand clothing sales. The philosophical shift away from excessive ownership of material possessions has undoubtedly boosted the appeal of sharing platforms that promote access over ownership.
The pursuit of value has been an enduring one, elevated by events such as the Global Financial Crisis and Covid-19 recession which prompted consumers to re-evaluate their spending and consider new products, brands, routines and channels that can help them save money. Sharing platforms facilitating the exchange of consumer products can help provide solutions that are cheaper, simpler, and permit quicker access to goods and services.
However, cost saving benefits in this industry are most relevant to providers who can share the costs of resources such as store or kitchen rental or generate additional income by for example providing delivery or cooking services.
Sharing platforms offer consumers greater choice than what is available in traditional channels, as providers are more flexible and can customise offerings based on what is available, in season, or in demand. This sense of novelty elevates the transaction and consumption experience; indeed, the “storytelling” component of sharing experiences is an important motivator to keep returning to such platforms.
At a time characterised by economic crises, “fake news,” and political polarisation, consumers are losing trust in traditional financial, media, and political institutions. However, sharing platforms have succeeded precisely because they are built on foundations of trust, particularly between members of a local community.
Despite the uncertainty and potential risks associated with facilitating transactions between strangers, the sense of community that is ingrained in the sharing economy can overcome such barriers. Crucially, sharing platforms also implement trust-building mechanisms such as peer-to-peer review systems, which are vital to enhancing the credibility of both the platforms and each other.
This is an edited extract from the Sharing Economy in Consumer Goods – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.