Why Owner-less Means Access More

When demand for experiences and convenience remain high, sharing takes a whole new meaning for your business.

Velvet Rope

A few years ago, I worked with a gentleman from Texas by way of Chicago.

He got on a plane every Monday morning to get to Philadelphia, then headed back to Chicago on Friday. I thought it was quite remarkable until I met someone else at a networking event who did exactly the same thing. In fact, they knew each other for being on the same flights regularly.

Why own when you can rent?

Renting an apartment in the area and going back and forth was a preferable solution to moving the whole family — arranging for new schools, and a successful career for the spouse were not on the table. I also discovered that both he and his wife leased cars.

The experience of driving newer cars trumped owning older models for them. When the company assignment ended, it was fairly easy to move to another market. Low impact for the family not needing to move a couple of times.

Renting vs. owning was what we did in Italy, at least a few years back that was the case.

It was in the US that I noticed how much stuff people actually buy and own. I thought garages were for cars, used goods were for antiques markets in piazzas vs. private driveways, and only people who were moving unexpectedly rented storage spaces.

Certainly people don't accumulate things just for sport, there are advantages to owning — convenience and choice being big ones, for example. Owning is not going to go away any time soon. And the economic system relies heavily upon people buying more and regularly, still. That is changing, though.

What if you don't have to give up choice?

In a market of abundance, like we have today, many of the advantages to ownership — having something when you need it, choosing your own colors, fabrics, places, etc. — thanks to ubiquitous nature of technology and digital tools, transfer to temporary use.

Owner-less has been a trend for quite a few years. First at the edges, and in environments that responded to the call for sustainability and conservation. Then becoming more mainstream for several reasons outlined by Trendwatching (emphasis mine):

  • Traditional ownership implies a certain level of responsibility, cost and commitment. Consumers looking for convenience and collecting as many experiences as possible want none of these things.
  • Fractional ownership and leasing lifestyle businesses offer the possibility of perpetual upgrades to the latest and greatest, the ability to maximize the number and variety of experiences, and allow consumers to access otherwise out-of-reach luxuries.
  • Owning bulky, irregularly used items is both expensive and unsustainable, especially in dense urban environments where space is at a premium. With more consumers having mobile access to online systems, it becomes easier to book items whenever and wherever they are needed— renting a place or an item can now be done also by sharing with other people.

Think about how much we rely on cloud computing and online storage for networking, sharing documents, and getting things done with virtual teams. 

As consumers, we are getting used to streaming videos on Netflix, TV programming on Hulu, and booking transportation with Zipcar. Last night you could watch the Oscars online, if you were willing to sign up for a few dollars at the .com site. Or you could read them on Twitter from peers.

Your customers may have decided to own less, however that probably means they are looking to experience more. What kinds of services and products do you have, or how can you rethink your portfolio and service pipeline to leverage your assets and provide more access?

[image of Velvet Rope

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