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Collaborative consumption: Motivation of potential users

Categories: Food for thought

Posted on 01-29-16 at 9:59 a.m.

In recent years, the enormous public visibility of Uber’s and Airbnb’s activities have contributed greatly to raising consumer awareness about the potential of collaborative consumption, both for those who can share the use of some of their personal property, as well as for those who might prefer more flexible access to these goods and services.

People’s awareness of this new potential, combined with the evolution of digital technologies that increasingly facilitate developing these new "markets", might certainly lead us to anticipate significant growth in such initiatives in the coming years.

Even if one can really question the "collaborative" nature of Uber and Airbnb (when services are provided in exchange for monetary remuneration, we are talking about a purely commercial activity, a market), the fact remains that there is a certain generalization of new forms of people's involvement, as private individuals, in new markets that optimize, on one hand, the value of owners’ "underutilized" assets, and on the other hand, access for users.

This phenomenon is particularly interesting to us from the user’s point of view, in that it represents new ways to access consumer goods and services. Although, from the point of view of the markets, these new initiatives may have some destabilizing effects (for the taxi industry, hotels), they allow these users (“consumers”) access to goods and services at a lower cost (while maximizing cash flow in the market).

Moreover, for the user, such initiatives represent opportunities for new experiences that look hugely rewarding. Indeed, interest in collaborative consumption, namely the desire to share the use of an expensive item or service, rather than paying full price for its exclusive use, is generated by multiple motivations and needs, thus opening the door to many potential initiatives that can meet these needs.

Much easier access to consumption is definitely at the center of these motivations, as potential users, namely those who express interest in collaborative consumption, are most certainly enthusiastic consumers who are eager for innovation, fun experiences and who want to take advantage of all that the market may have to offer.

But they are hoping for much more. They express a strong need to build highly personalized lifestyles; we’re talking made-to-measure offers that are perfectly adapted to their most specific needs, as if the offers on the current market do not perfectly meet their needs so they want to explore options outside of "traditional" distribution channels. They aspire to unique experiences that are quite unique and very rewarding.

They are major hedonists. They want fun, intensity, stimulation and escape. They are hoping for access to all possible pleasurable experiences, and to be able to afford them (hence the idea of "collaboration" in terms of payment).

Pride is also a very important motivation for them. They aspire to status experiences, particularly in consumer experiences. They want to flaunt all the latest things on the market, the most popular brands and products and feel proud (hence once again a desire to have easier access to consumption).

Emotional connection with people is very important here too. "Collaboration" is an opportunity to discover people and what makes them different, and potential users consider such experiences with others very enriching.

Finally, they show an interesting mix of social responsibility and predisposition to civil disobedience!

Their consumption patterns definitely meet ethical and ecological criteria. They want to do business with companies and brands that are good corporate citizens. They value helping one another and are very sensitive to community issues in their neighbourhoods and regions.

On the other hand, they are also very critical of corporations, considering them responsible for most of the ills in our society. They denounce the lack of corporate sensitivity, inefficient bureaucracies, inflexible corporate and union constraints, and faced with what they see as glaring equity gaps, they are willing to disobey to achieve their purposes (regulatory issues pertaining to taxis and hotels do not move them unduly).

Thus, interest in collaborative consumption is motivated by...

- A desire for more flexible access to consumption
- A need to personalize their consumption (more choices)
- A desire for unique, fun, pleasurable experiences
- And for experiences that are status-oriented
- A desire to connect with people (to discover others through "collaboration")
- A desire to make ethical and ecological choices in consumption
- And a readiness to violate established rules, when deemed too restrictive

Note that this interest, in its most evident form, is apparent among 7% of the Canadian population, but in total, 45% of people might be tempted by collaborative options, depending on their relevance. Interest is fairly widespread when it comes to socio-demographics, while being more marked both among young people (18-34) and among younger Baby Boomers (55-64). Let us note that interest is also stronger among professionals and among Quebecers.

The opportunity for new brands

Given the strong level of interest in the population (quantitatively) and the diversity of motivations that inspire this interest, it is quite conceivable that we are only at the beginning of a generalization of all kinds collaborative initiatives in all possible areas of consumption. New brands will inevitably arise and the opportunity for the latter definitely lies in properly meeting potential users’ motivations. Initiatives that provide access at lower cost to unique, different, fun offers, and that offer pleasurable, ethical, and ecological experiences, that allow people to connect by collaborating will be occasions to build strong brands that resonate powerfully in people's lives.

The trend is just beginning. The need is latent. The demand is multi-dimensional. "Collaborative" consumption is definitely on the cusp of significant growth, from your family recipes to the use of your lawn mower! In fact, for example, a new hotel room sharing service, the Winston Club, will be launched in March for those who are interested (don’t worry, there will be at least two beds per room!).