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The New Consumer and the Sharing Economy


Consumers seeking purposeful alternatives turn to sharing and collaborative models

New research out today from Havas Worldwide depicts a global population in search of a better way of living and consuming. Seventy percent of the 10,574 people surveyed around the globe believe that overconsumption is actually putting our planet and society at risk. Half say they could happily live without most of the items they own. And two-thirds make it a point to rid themselves of unneeded possessions at least once a year. We have entered an age when sharing everything from cars to vacation homes to textbooks to pets has become socially acceptable among those who realize that we have exhausted the planet and ourselves with way too much stuff and responsibility. In the just released Prosumer Report, “The New Consumer and the Sharing Economy,” Havas Worldwide explores the coming wave of “smarter” consumerism that promises to significantly alter our economic models and the roles brands are expected to play. Highlights from the study include:

  • The vast majority of consumers surveyed believe our current economic models aren’t working, and yet most are convinced that high levels of consumption are critical to economic growth. To ease their tension over this issue, they’re replacing guilt with purpose by buying products that are more durable and sustainable, sharing rather than owning, and paying more attention to the human elements of transactions.
  • This emerging way of thinking is driving a new economic model that focuses on community and collaboration over accumulation and ownership. Sixty-five percent of respondents agree: “Our society would be better off if people shared more and owned less.”
  • Millennials are embracing peer-to-peer transactions and crowdfunding, and more than a third already belong to a sharing service or expect to join one within the next year.
  • City dwellers will be more likely to share than own a car by 2050, predict more than one-third of respondents, and most energy production will be in the hands of individual producers.
  • Though goods and services are being exchanged between individuals, there is plenty of scope for brand involvement. Three-quarters of respondents would like to see brands act as guarantors of the products individuals sell online.

“For a number of years, we’ve tracked the shift away from wasteful spending and toward a more mindful approach to consumption, but what we’re seeing now is much more proactive and hands-on,” said Andrew Benett, global CEO of Havas Worldwide and chief strategy officer of Havas Creative Group. “People aren’t just choosing Brand A over Brand B because it’s produced closer to home or treats its workers better. They're getting involved in the consumption cycle by contributing to the funding or even the creation of products they want and by reselling or renting out their unneeded possessions. They're creating new formats for the exchange of goods. And every step of the way, they are practicing ‘less is more,’ and savoring their ‘less.’” “The good news for marketers,” Benett added, “is that the data point to all sorts of ways in which brands can get involved in these new consumption models—as beacons of trust, as motivators of ‘good’ behavior, and as builders of community and connections. Our report points to a variety of brands that are already carving out niches for themselves within this space.” “The New Consumer and the Sharing Economy” draws on findings from an online survey of 10,574 people aged 16+ in 29 markets: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam. The study was created by Havas Worldwide and fielded by Market Probe International via online surveys.

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