In economy that 'shares,' report finds fewer people want to own things

"Sharing" economy dulls allure of ownership

The growth of the on-demand rental economy, which includes services like Airbnb, Uber and Spotify, has sparked a trend in which fewer and fewer people see value in ownership, according to research commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The study, conducted last December with 1,000 U.S. adults, found that 44% of participants were familiar with the on-demand rental economy, commonly referred to as the “sharing” economy, and of those participants, 43% said "owning [things] today feels like a burden.”

“We’ve definitely seen a shift in consumption habits, specifically as it pertains to music,” said Amanda Havey, brand creative for the International Media Co. who contributed analysis to the PwC report. “People are feeling less of a need to own a track of music, which is where Spotify has come into play.”

A similar trend has emerged in people’s attitudes toward car ownership. According to the report, 4 in 5 people surveyed said they saw advantages to renting in lieu of owning cars, and adults ages 18 to 24 were twice as likely as those over 25 to say that “access is the new ownership.”

“Hitchhiking, it seems, is back -- in one form or another,” the report said, signaling some success for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, which have in the past publicly stated that they hope customers will forgo car ownership in favor of hailing a ride with one of their services.

The retail industry is also seeing consumer preference lean toward minimalism, convenience and better pricing, which has spurred the growth of what PwC calls a “new retail,” in which people are turning to peer-to-peer marketplaces to shop for everything from clothing to sporting equipment to bikes.

The percentage of U.S. adults who have engaged in the sharing economy is still relatively low, with 9% on the higher end in media and entertainment, and 2% on the lower end in retail. But these numbers are expected to grow, and the report advises incumbent industries to either mitigate the risks the sharing economy poses or to jump on board in some way. In the latter, it cites the automotive industry as an example. Recognizing the threat of the sharing economy, Avis and BMW respectively made strategic investments in sharing economy companies such as ZipCar and JustPark.

“It may sound grim, but if your business can’t figure out how to disrupt itself, someone else out there will do it for you,” the report said.

Twitter: @traceylien

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