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Dossier 10/10/2014

Who shares and why?

Greens, rebels, bargain hunters - who are these collaborative consumers? To better understand this new phenomenon, researchers and polling organisations have been trying to find the typical profile of a collaborative consumer.

Overall, the studies are consistent in describing a young, active and connected audience (half of them have multiple accounts on social networks according to TNS Sofres) who mainly belong to the higher socio-economic categories and who come from relatively large families. A population marked by a mindset that values encounters and new things, that is concerned with the development of society, and which wants to use objects for longer.

However, the values (sociability and sustainability) that consumers attach to collaborative economy services should not eclipse personal motivations (purchasing power, savings or additional revenue, practicality and flexibility). These motivations tend to be dominant especially in a context of reduced income for the majority of the population. "Within the notion of collaborative consumption, practitioners truly motivated by a commitment (environmental/social) are in the minority" concludes the IPSOS.

One type of consumption - several profiles

Contradictory, new consumers? The ambivalence is down to the diversity of services and sharing models that are found under the umbrella term ‘collaborative consumption’. According to an IPSOS study, there is not one single profile but rather several profiles each related to a given practice. To illustrate this, the Institute has described six portraits from ‘group purchasers’ to "amapiens". For example, we learn that P2P sellers (52%) are smart consumers, serial price comparers aged between 25 and 55 years’ old living with a partner and having at least one child. Those who rent their property (6%) are adventurers. In work, from high socio-economic categories and parents of two children, this group is the most familiar with collaborative services. More committed to strengthening social links and protecting the environment, connected and sociable, carpoolers (8%) are mainly men aged under 45, students or public sector workers, living alone or with their parents.

As varied as the profiles are what motivates these new consumers e.g. those that want to save money and those who want to do something for society. IPSOS categorised them according to the nature of the individual or collective motivation. The difference in percentages is blatant: the two most "individual" practices (buying and selling between private individuals) account for 75% of collaborative consumers versus 14% for the two most "collective" practices. For the analysts, the collaborative purchasing and selling sites function as a gateway to the mass market to generate extra income or to save money especially for those aged under 35 notes IPSOS (69%). It is also important to add that "practices increase when personal motivations are strong".

One type of consumption, several degrees of conviction.

According to a study conducted by Jeremiah Owyang, analyst and CEO, as long as the collaborative consumption adoption curve continues to grow, the profiles and motivations focus on two categories of users: re-shareres who buy and sell P2P, and neo-sharers who use new-generation sites closer to the service than sales of products. Neo-shareres tend to be more left-wing (democrats in the American study) than the others and often cumulate several collaborative practices similar to the profile of goods renters defined in the IPSOS study. The variety of these new consumers sometimes results in violent conflicts between the committed pioneers and the self-serving re-shareres as illustrated in a piece published on Médiapart entitled "Blablacar: carpooling killed by finance and greed". These pioneering shareres now face a new majority, who without rejecting collaborative consumption, demonstrate a desire to create distance from and control over it.

However, what seems to unite all these new consumers is their defiance in terms of large corporations and banks, observed TNS Sofres. For the sociologist, Nathan Stern, questioning traditional authorities is an integral part of collaborative consumption. According to Stern "we should not abolish them but restore a form of empathy so that they are more attentive to their means rather than their ends." Furthermore, collaborative consumers share a digital culture, which makes them more sensitive to the perspective of the horizontalisation of exchanges and the development of interactions between empowered individuals.

But for Jeremiah Owyang, these pragmatic motivations do not take away from the fact that consumers associate collaborative consumption with a human and responsible development model, which they value. Let's not forget that this is the strength of collaborative consumption and what makes it a success: it manages to reconcile individual motivations with collective motivations.


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