Why do you like shopping? What do you drink in the morning, coffee or orange juice? When do you prefer a shower instead of a bath? Who decides what you're going to eat for diner? And where is your next trip heading to, Italy or Iceland?
To offer you a better insight — in consumers, your customers and maybe why not yourself — we explain why people do what they do. These inner motivations we approach from a WHY5Researcher's point of view in a monthly update of "Consumer psychology in everyday life."
Are we becoming less greedy?
The ‘greedy 80s’ have long passed. In the aftermath of dealing with the consequences of rampant consumerism and capitalism, society is currently struggling with its conscience. We have realized that short-term thinking and self-centered opportunism do not pay off in the long run (on a societal level). The buzzwords of the new millennium are social responsibility, durability, sustainability, ecological footprint, … All indications that we want (or are forced) to do things differently.
One of the expressions of this urge is “collaborative consumption” (a.k.a. the sharing economy) . It starts from the idea that we step away from the concept of owning towards sharing products.
Nothing new, you might say. And of course it isn’t. Borrowing and sharing commodities already exist for ages but it was mainly limited to the close circle of family, friends and neighbors.
The internet and its social networks have made it possible to have direct access to a wide range of social contacts. This has led to trading initiatives such as LETS (Local Exchange and Trading System) where services are traded (the’ if you cut my hair, I’ll fix your bike’-principle). But also sharing platforms such as car sharing (eg. Cambio.be).
Why don’t we all then?
Despite of the technological possibilities and the financial advantages, these initiatives don’t take off. The whole system is based on several pillars which each come with some barriers:
1) Wanting to share
As a kid, around the age of 2, we all experienced how hard it was to share our toys. It’s something which doesn’t come natural, we have to learn to share. And to be honest, we only do it because we know that sharing is actually trading. It pays off to share because we know we get something out of it (or at least, that’s what we hope – even if it’s only social acceptance). Sharing with complete strangers however is even harder. The pay-back needs to be very clear upfront and needs to be in balance.
Trust is a ‘social currency’. The person you want to put trust in, first needs to ‘earn’ it. This is why borrowing to friends is easy (they have earned your trust by treating you well in the past). If you have to share things with strangers however, you don’t know what you might expect. Tokens of trustworthiness are therefore of major importance to make the system work. They provide us with a sense of control. On eBay trust is earned by means of your “seller rating”.
3) “Use it as if it was your own”
Oddly enough, the system only works, if everybody treats the commodities as if they were his own. Meaning: using it with respect and try not to damage it. It’s a matter of acting in a responsible manner.
Access to the product needs to be fairly easy (I want to have it where and when I need it). This is where a lot of these sharing systems still have shortcomings.
5) Letting go of the magic of “new”
The smell when you step into a brand new car, cracking the cover when you open a brand new book … Think how it makes you feel. Many of us will say that it makes them happy. We associate new with ‘new life’, clean, fresh, … Also with feeling special, self-worth, …
In a sharing economy however, the whole idea is that you lower the ‘newness’. The usage frequency per product intensifies. Therefore you have to accept that others have touched and used the same product before you.
6) Not owning but having access
The concept of not owning is maybe the hardest of all. The music industry already made this mind shift. For example ‘buying’ a song on iTunes does not mean you own the song. Not owning something we have bought confuses us (cfr. the whole ‘what happens with our iTunes collection when we die?’-discussion...).
When well executed , collaborative initiatives can be a real success. The city bikes in our own cities are a great example. Think of the possibilities.
Senior Quantitative Reseacher WHY5Research
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