It’s a sign that the collaborative (or sharing) economy has reached the next stage of its maturity, given the number of research studies that have been conducted through the past year aiming to get a clearer picture of who, how and why people are participating in different services and activities.

To get a sense of where there are both consistencies and inconsistencies in data, and understand the big picture insights across the research, we have put together a snapshot summary of the most important findings from seven key studies conducted in 2013-2014. Here is what we found:


Key Findings across Studies

  1. It is not a Gen-Y thing: Sharing services are not just for the young, but rather show strong and growing adoption across generations on both the supply and demand side.
  1. Trust and inconvenience are biggest barriers: The most common barriers to sharing are trust in strangers and the perceived inconvenience of learning how to use a new platform.
  1. Definition confusion: People have a limited understanding of what the “sharing economy” really means and are unclear around what services are included and not included. It’s not surprising given that the studies themselves lack a shared definition of the “sharing economy” and/or “the collaborative economy” and the categories and services it encompasses. For example, some studies include ‘music sharing’ services such as Spotify, others don’t. Others consider sharing information on platforms such as Wikipedia as part of the umbrella
  1. Willingness vs. usage: Most studies focus on attitudes around sharing such as willingness to share something versus actual usage on sharing platforms. More studies should be done to measure actual metered data.
  1. Private vs. public networks: People are still more comfortable sharing with people they know/have a strong connection with, and are for example lending money to family, sharing school run drop-offs or loaning items to neighbours without the support of a tech marketplace. There is still a behavioral shift to go from ‘private’ forms of sharing to tech-enabled public sharing platforms.
    Offline sharing activities such as ‘land sharing’ and private forms of sharing such as carpooling school runs are also treated differently across studies.
  1. Motivations: While the reasons people are using different services can vary across sectors, saving money, convenience and value are common drivers overall.
  1. Most shareable items: People are most comfortable sharing smaller-ticket physical items such as tools, appliances, sports equipment, which may be because they are easy to transport, and there is lower risk.
  1. Big & getting bigger: The financial value of the sharing economy is expected to grow in size significantly over the next five to 10 years, however there is still a lack of conclusive research around the nature of its contribution to the global economy.
  2. Aggregate lens: Most studies are typically aggregated at a country level but lack some key classifications, such as urban vs. suburban awareness and usage, to give important context.

We believe the following studies are key to conduct in 2015:

  1. PROVIDER MOTIVATIONS: Research should be done to determine the motivations of providers (such as hosts, drivers, taskers) participating in the collaborative economy and the income being generated to get a better sense of the shifting nature of ‘work’.
  2. VERTICAL REFERRAL: A study looking into the referral behaviours between different verticals would contribute to an understanding of where participation in one type of sharing economy service lowers the barrier to participation in another.
  3. CUMMULATIVE IMPACT: To get clearer sense of impact of this activity on the economy, environment and communities, further research should be conducted to study metrics such as income generation, community connection and local economic impact across different services (beyond a single marketplace point of view).
  4. DISRUPTION OR DESTRUCTION: To gain a more accurate picture of industry disruption over new market creation, a study should look into the market share of collaborative economy services in a specific industry. Specifically, how much new value is being created against how much is being taken from incumbent players.


  1. This is excellent information, but it does highlight a central problem of terminology and how people understand its usage. For instance, it is not clear from what is said here, what criteria were used to arrive at these conclusions, and how broadly or narrowly ‘collaborative consumption’ is viewed. Also, in an effort to keep the sentences reasonably short for the ‘Future Research’ section, I am completely lost as to what, exactly, is being proposed, since there are so many terms that could be interpreted in different ways.
    But I love what you are doing!

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