Expert Corner: why do consumers like to share?

When a brand declares that it is “eco-friendly”, recycled packaging and the use of organic materials usually comes to mind, which almost always demands for a higher price point. The ‘sharing economy’ (or collaborative consumption) consists of companies that are sustainable and allow consumers to spend less. It creates a sense of community and connectedness, which is already important to consumers today, developed through the use of social media.

As technology changes in the future, our way of consuming will change as well. Consumers, especially millennials, want more access to goods as opposed to the ownership of them. Technology (websites and phone apps) creates a platform for this to happen. Not only is the trend contributing to sustainability in retail, but it also reduces the need for inventory space and waste, especially in the fashion sector. For example, Rent frock Repeat allows shoppers to rent designer dresses, through both their e-commerce site and physical showroom in Toronto, instead of spending hundreds of dollars on one piece for a special event.

Bag Borrow or Steal allows shoppers to do the same with handbags, and have the option to buy used accessories from sellers on the website. SwapStyle offers a similar type of service where consumers can buy and sell each others’ unwanted clothing items through an online marketplace. We also see the trend adopted by many companies in other industries with automobiles (Zipcar), movies and TV shows (Netflix), and real estate (Air BnB).

By borrowing instead of buying for our daily activities, we reduce the pile-up of ‘stuff’. It brings a new sense of community to online social networks, while also increasing companies efforts for sustainability, which has become more important to consumers. The sharing economy creates a new meaning for the phrase reduce, reuse, recycle, and makes our lives feel a little lighter.