How do consumers access, buy and use their favorite products and services? While individuals traditionally have seen ownership as the most desirable way, increasing numbers of consumers are paying to temporarily access or share products and services rather than buy or own them. This so-called “sharing economy” is growing rapidly, although estimates for the current size of the nascent market vary substantially. Well-known examples of successful startups built on collaborative consumption systems include Airbnb Inc.
Growth in sharing systems has been particularly fueled by the Internet with its rise of social media systems, which facilitate connections between peers eager to share their possessions. The central conceit of collaborative consumption is simple: obtain value from untapped potential residing in goods that are not entirely exploited by their owners.
The sharing economy might represent a serious threat to established industries. However, the authors’ research suggests six ways in which companies can respond: (1) by selling use of a product rather than ownership, (2) by supporting customers in their desire to resell goods, (3) by exploiting unused resources and capacities, (4) by providing repair and maintenance services, (5) by using collaborative consumption to target new customers, and (6) by developing entirely new business models enabled by collaborative consumption.