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Prosumer Reports

The New Consumer and the Sharing Economy

The New Consumer and the Sharing Economy

Havas Global Comms

Havas Global Comms

May 13, 2014

A majority of global respondents say they could live happily without most of the things they own.

Unhappy with the results of decades of overconsumption, many people around the world are searching for a better way of living and consuming. A large majority of those surveyed in 29 markets believe that overconsumption is actually putting our planet and society at risk. Most say they could happily live without most of the items they own and that they make it a point to rid themselves of unneeded possessions at least once a year. We have entered an age when sharing, rather than buying, everything from cars and vacation homes to textbooks and pets has become socially acceptable among those who realize we have exhausted the planet and ourselves with way too much stuff and responsibility.

Remember when people derived pleasure from shopping till they “dropped”? When cars sported bumper stickers proclaiming, “He who dies with the most toys wins”? Nowadays, such concepts have fallen out of favor, as more and more people have begun to consider consumption a necessary evil. Shopping is something we all have to do—and an activity that most of us still sometimes enjoy—but it is also something many of us feel guilty about because of the impact our purchases have on the planet and on other people. And even on ourselves.

Based on a survey of 10,574 men and women in 29 markets, this study explores the coming wave of “smarter” consumerism—an approach that promises to significantly alter our economic models and the roles brands are expected to play.

Key findings include:

Overconsumption is killing us…but buying is a patriotic duty. Fewer than 1 in 6 respondents believe current economic models are working, and large majorities believe that overconsumption is putting our society and the planet at risk. And yet the answer is not necessarily to curtail spending. Most people agree that consuming less will destroy jobs and that buying is a patriotic act because it bolsters national economies.

We can’t stop consuming, so we need to be smarter about how we do it. Smarter consumption is about replacing guilt with purpose and injecting our social values into our purchase decisions. For most of us, it means being more conscious of what we consume, taking care to extend the lifecycles of the things we do buy, and choosing products that offer guilt-free pleasure by virtue of their durability, sustainability, and positive impact on local communities.

A new economic model is emerging. People will always consume. It is how we survive as individuals and how economies grow. What is changing is the role consumers wish to play within that system. We are seeing the growth of a new form of consumption that focuses less on accumulation and ownership and more on community and collaboration.

Millennials are driving the collaborative economy. Members of every generation are moving toward a more active and mindful approach to consumption, but millennials are leading the way in terms of embracing (or at least experimenting with) new formats such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer transactions.

A big shift is expected. By the year 2050, a third or more of our sample believe, city dwellers will be more likely to share than own a car, most energy production will be in the hands of individual producers, and communities will create their own healthcare marketplaces rather than relying on outside providers and insurance companies.

Brands are beacons of trust in the new economy. Even when goods and services are being exchanged between individuals, there is plenty of scope for brands to be involved as intermediaries and guarantors.

Consumers are looking to brands for help in consuming smarter. The evidence is clear that people want to consume in a way that is better for the planet and the health of their communities, but we also know how difficult it can be to break away from patterns set over a lifetime. A large majority of respondents are looking to brands to help them make the shift to smarter consumption.

One of the world’s largest global communications groups, Havas is committed to creating a meaningful difference to brands, businesses, and people.

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