5 Reasons Behind the Collaborative Consumption Movement

By Rich Kidd 

We now live in a global village where we can mimic the ties that used to happen face to face. But on a scale and in ways that have never been possible before. So what’s actually happening is that social networks and real time technologies are taking us back where we’re bartering, trading, swapping, sharing, but they’re being reinvented into dynamic and appealing forms.

- Rachel Botsman

We are currently facing a perfect storm of conditions which is producing the movement known as collaborative consumption. The movement is all about combining the strengths of the information age with old fashioned values our societies were formed upon. People are finding new ways to connect, share resources, and live more responsibly by working smarter with each other. Almost everywhere you look, there is a new initiative, whether digital or analog, which enables people to collaborate in ways which were never possible until the current age. As our introductory post on the uSwapia Blog, we want to detail our view of how this groundswell is coming to be, and - in further posts - where it is taking us.  

1) Technology

Collaborative consumption was born out of web-enhanced personal connections 

Its no secret that technology is connecting us in ways which were never before possible. We are decades into the internet age and despite fears of isolation and disconnection from each other, the web has proven to be an amazing tool to enhance communication, collaboration and the spread of information. And with the latest wave of ultra mobile “post-PC” devices, the web has enabled people to connect with each other easier than ever. All that being said, we believe that the digital era has also created a yearning to connect on a personal level with the individual at the other end of a transaction, tweet or e-mail. The Internet is becoming more of a mechanism to enhance and add value to our face-to-face connections and real world experiences, not a destination to dwell in, shut off from society. Collaborative consumption is just one example of this. It is fueled through technology and in turn provides a unique personal experience that is the basis of human interaction.  A recent scientific study has shown proof that human intelligence evolved via cooperation and teamwork, and we see our web-enhanced human connections as the next logical step in our progress.

2) The Rise of the Millennials

Millennials are the life blood of the sharing economy 

By the year 2020, 1 out of every 3 adults will be a Millennial. Studies have shown the upcoming generation (born between 1980 - 2000) to be more open to the fundamentals of collaborative consumption, such as sharing over ownership. This combined with the 55 percent unemployment rate of Millennials its no wonder they are looking for creative ways to save money. Millennials are also the most educated generation in history, which unfortunately comes with the largest student loan bill ever. Trading, sharing and collaborating have become essential to young people more than ever, and they finding new ways to do so every day. ZimRide is a new startup business where users can hitch a ride, or car owners can advertise a trip to find carpoolers and earn money. Users have profiles on the site with their interests, music tastes and social media information, so you can find someone compatible to ride with. ZimRide is only available in California at this time, but they just landed a big round of funding. And it is probably not a surprise that the 18-24 age group are the most frequent users of the site. 

3) The Great Recession

Collaborative consumption saves money

Its hard not to mention the global economic crisis as a factor in the collaborative consumption boom. As money becomes tight, society actively looks for ways to pinch their collective pennies. The multitude of services considered as part of the “sharing economy” has started a peer-to-peer business revolution. These businesses allow people to do anything from rent a bike to outsource annoying chores. AirBnb is a prime example of the frugality of the peer-to-peer marketplace. During a recent trip to New York City, I was able to save money by skipping the expensive manhattan hotel and renting a studio apartment in Brooklyn. Peer-to-peer sharing cuts down on a lot of the traditional costs to run a service, and allows for folks facing tough times to earn extra income. Fast Company recently published an article featuring numerous Airbnb users and how the service “saved their lives.” The users were all facing particularly tough times when they decided to list their properties on the peer-to-peer service. One couple earned $24,000 in a year renting out their home which was enough to stay afloat after a layoff at work. 

4) Increase in Environmental Responsibility

Access over ownership = green

The emphasis on green and local has certainly seen a surge in recent years, and this plays a big role in supporting collaborative consumption. The car sharing service ZipCar has struggled on the stock market after its initial public offering of $173 million, but there’s no doubt they are in it for the long haul. Studies have shown that a large majority of people believe that companies have an obligation to green initiatives and collaborative consumption services have a natural tendency to be environmentally responsible. Consumers paying a premium for green products will also find it refreshing that supporting the environment in the “sharing economy” does not cost extra, but actually costs less in most cases. The environmental implications of car sharing alone is huge, not to mention the trading of second hand goods on eBay and Craigslist, the office space rentals on LiquidSpace, and you can even loan out that drill you use once a year on Zilok. Anytime we can work together to maximize the resources we already have, the environment is sure to benefit.

5) The Fall of Consumerism and the Me Economy

People are now empowered with information and resources to sell their own goods globally

Sometime after World War II, the game changed for the modern consumer. Propaganda was discovered by the big companies and this started a trajectory that only recently has started to erode. The spread of information and the web have brought the power of knowledge back to the people, and we are able to organize and share based on our best interests, not based on the latest TV or magazine ad. People are becoming more favorable to craft and artisan-made goods as opposed to the mass marketed products of the 20th century. Etsy is a great example of how people are ulitzing the sharing economy to enable peer-to-peer trades, which are incredibly rewarding for both parties. There is an innumerable amount of craft and artisan products available at our fingertips, everything from homemade dryer balls to that set of R2D2 crayons you’ve always wanted. Consumers are now able to find all sorts of niche products online - and if the product doesn’t exist - in the world of collaborative consumption, you simply create it yourself.            


We at uSwapia believe that collaborative consumption will continue to grow throughout the coming years, and will prove to be a valuable tool for us to live (and consume) smarter together. Can you think of any other reasons that collaborative consumption is growing? Let us know in the comments!