Millennials and the Shared Economy

December 26, 2011

A recent survey commissioned by Zipcar, the company built on shared rides sprinkled across cityscapes, dramatically shows how differently Millennials (those aged 13-34 years) relate to business and the economy.  More specfiically, it reavels a movement away from direct ownership and toward shared or collaborative consumption.  

The Atlantic Cities project noted how car sharing is just one aspect o fthis broader trend of infusing an urban mentality born out of a lack of space into the broader cultural and economic fabric. When asked whether they would be OK with participating in a car sharing program, over 50% of respondents in the Millennials category answered affirmatively.  Just 10% in the 55 and over category responded similarly.  

While these numbers are certainly positive for Zipcar, they also reveal much more about Millennials than we have previously seen. Zipcar isn't alone in offering products to this new collaborative economy.  Airbnb, for instance, allows people to share their couch space with weary travelers for a fee.  Sharing also applies more than ever to information being stored in the "cloud" -- a network of server storage accessible from across the world. What we will want to watch over the coming years is, firstly, how this new economic ecosystem evolves.  

Second, we'll want to keep an eye on how the affinity by Millennials for sharing begins to affect the consumption choices of the broader economy.  Third, increasing urbanization and cultural urbanism may reference these collaborative tendencies, supported as they are by more community-based orientations and greater density in general.  

Finally, we've seen the power of social networks to reinforce existing ties and to form new connections (albeit weak ones), and their ability to influence sharing in the broader economy will be a significant tendency to watch.