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Collaborative consumption and the trendsetters

Car and home sharing services, among other "collaborative consumption" services, are sprouting up across the world. Instead of committing to vehicle ownership, people are getting from point A to point B using member-based services such as zipcar and autoshare. Through home-sharing services such as Airbnb, individuals and families rent out their homes or part of their homes - and often use the same services themselves when they travel. Home-sharing services could become disruptive in hotel and bed-and-breakfast markets as travellers and tourists move towards cheaper, and perhaps more interesting forms of staying over in new cities.

In the most recent edition of The Bridge, zinc tank's annual omnibus survey of Canadian social media user segments, several significant aspects of this relatively novel trend are evident:
  • The largest of the online user segments that use these services are heavy users:
    • 18% have used car-sharing, 14% have used home-sharing service
  • The second largest segment is business users:
    • 7% have used car-sharing service and 10% have tried home-sharing
  • Both the heavy user and business user segments rank at or near the top of income-earners:
    • Business users’ annual household incomes range from $75,000 to $200,000
    • Heavy users comprise 14% of those earning $100-149K, 6% of those at $150-199K, and they are the largest segment (3%) among those earning $200K or higher
  • Both segments are also among the best-educated:
    • Heavy users: 23% university grads, 22% college/tech grads
    • Business users: 36% university grads, 21% college/tech grads
Clearly these early adopters have the resources and interest in these innovations. Moreover, as the following table shows, while the number of actual paying customers in Canadian markets is still low, roughly one-fifth of all survey respondents indicated that they would at least consider using them in the future.

Have used service Have not used services: 
"Would you consider using in the future?"
  Yes Maybe No Don't know/
Not saying
Car sharing 6% 14% 51% 27%
Home sharing 5% 12% 54% 28%
Neither service used 91%      

Savvy marketers, whether in these sectors or others, are paying attention. Collaborative consumption is an innovative business model that is delivering tangible, attractive benefits. Trendsetters are using the services, talking about them, and sharing their experience. The research suggests that more followers, and more disruption to today’s traditional models, will be joining them.