Let’s share the beer: Collaborative consumption


Imagine 2 of us sitting at a bar but we don’t want to drink an entire pitcher of beer. We want to save money and not buy beer by the glass. So, we convince a couple at another table to split a pitcher with us, and we leave paying half the cost and receiving half the beer. Here, two sets of consumers have jointly arranged both the acquisition and distribution of the product. This is an example of collaborative consumption in simple terms, according to research professor, Russell Belk in an article in the Journal of Business Research (August 2014)

Our self-inflicted isolation has given collaborative  consumption an upward trend. People have been carefully buying and sharing products and services with family or with friends and relatives. The birth of an agile, empathetic and environmentally conscious workforce gives hope for collaborative consumption. Here are some trends:

1. A family of 4 shares Netflix at $14, consuming entertainment collaboratively at different parts of the day during the pandemic. They gain maximum utility, share time, resources and space.

2. Tech companies are offering free digital platforms and high-speed Internet access to bridge the digital divide  and tout their social responsibility. Their end goal: enable greater collaborative consumption over the Internet. No wonder Facebook just launched its gaming platform during the pandemic.

3. The collaborative consumption of power is already on. How can we urge utilities to give us a flat rate as we share power in our subdivision?

4. Consumers have started asking for refunds from Home Owner Associations since they have not collaboratively consumed amenities like the pool and the clubhouse. And, they may not use those this summer because of social distancing.

5. More millennials will consider the environmental impact of their consumer choices. Air quality has substantially improved from New Delhi to New York. Yes, we will collaborate around guilt.

6. Collaborative consumption has already played a major role in sustaining locally owned businesses from failing as people living in neighborhoods started sharing resources to keep them open.

In a cash-strapped economy, we will be sharing more goods, time, services and space by renting, trading, and swapping stuff. An agile and nimble workforce of the future will not be wasting resources. It’s just a matter of time.

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