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"People are doing this for selfish reasons. But it's actually sustainable. This is good news for the planet. It's like healthy food that tastes good." - Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies, talking to Mercury News

Why are people trying Uber and Lyft instead of buying new cars? Why are more travelers using Airbnb when they visit new places? What is driving people to buy, sell or swap goods using Craigslist, eBay and Kijiji?

These are some important questions we asked when we did our study on the collaborative economy. In partnership with Jeremiah Owyang, the leading expert on the collaborative economy, we sought to find out exactly why people share instead of buying. Many experts have suggested that a desire for access over ownership, and a commitment to sustainability, are the chief drivers of this new way of doing business.

Certainly, many sharers identify sharing services with sustainaibility and community values, as we revealed in our recent report, Sharing is the New Buying: How to Win in the Collaborative Economy. When we looked at the drivers of specific sharing transactions, however, it turned out that pragmatic considerations play a big role in the sharing story.

convenience, better price drive sharing in the collaborative economy

Using our technology to talk to 90,112 people in three insight communities that we manage, we found that people's primary motivations for sharing are:

  • Convenience. Thanks to mobile, people can access what they need easier than ever. If you need transportation, Uber and Lyft are just a mobile app away. And before the rise of sharing services such as TaskRabbit and Elance, hiring professional and personal services was a hassle. Now with one click, people have access to thousands of professionals within their fingertips.
  • Price. Buying designer gown is out of reach for many consumers but Rent the Runway makes it possible to access these goods at a lower price. Buying a luxury car is expensive, but Uber lets people feel like Jay-Z - even for just one ride.
  • Product and service quality. People are happy with the products and services they access through sharing sites and apps. Travellers seeking unique experiences are opting to use Airbnb instead of staying at a hotel. Etsy and other sites allow people to buy goods that are customized for them.

The main takeaway for brands is that sharing is driven by the same pragmatic considerations that drive conventional forms of consumption and production. This is one of the reasons why sharing is a threat to brands: the movement is fuelled by the same motivations that have driven consumption in the past few decades.

While sustainability ranks lower as a driver in the collaborative economy, the movement wins, too. As a result of their participation in the collaborative economy, people are reducing their consumption and waste. It's a win-win situation: people conveniently get what they need at a better price while conserving resources in the process. For sustainability-minded brands, sharing is an opportunity to win the business of many consumers.

If your business already knows how to compete on price or quality, the motivation of sharers provides a way to compete in this new economy.

The New Rules of the Collaborative Economy (webinar with Jeremiah Owyang of Crowd Companies and Andrew Reid of Vision Critical)

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