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Summary:

While web sharing sites — like Airbnb and Zipcar — have an environmental angle, potential users of these services aren’t all that motivated by the environmental benefits, according to a new survey. Instead web sharing users are motivated by saving money and by having easy access.

Zipcar Snaps Up UK Car-sharing Network Streetcar

While web sharing sites — like Airbnb and Zipcar — have an environmental angle because they’re a more efficient way to use resources, potential users of these services aren’t all that motivated by the environmental benefits, according to a new survey. Instead web sharing users are motivated by saving money and by having easy access to the product.

The survey was conducted by professors from University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, and University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business. The Professors will be using the data to publish a paper called “When Is Ours Better Than Mine? A Framework for Understanding and Altering Participation in Commercial Sharing Systems.”

Basically the findings mean these web sharing companies shouldn’t be creating marketing around the environmental benefits of their services. That won’t bring in new users or encourage customers to share more or use the shared goods more.

In addition, the survey found that the popularity of the services aren’t a motivating factor either to bring in new users. That’s because customers are worried that if services get too popular then having easy access to goods could become harder. So web sharing companies should take note of that, too: don’t use how popular your service is in your marketing.

Airbnb and Zipcar are currently not highlighting an environmental angle to their services. But Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky has long noted that the service is about a changing mindset about access trumping ownership. Reducing ownership, cutting down on wasteful purchases, and using goods more efficiently just has a natural environmental angle. And perhaps that’s the best way to deliver an environmental benefit: have it be an effect of a service, not the aim.

  1. New reader to GigaOM – are the articles here keyword tagged anyplace?

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  2. Absolutely Katie! Thanks for this post, the more those working in green/sustainability areas get this (and not just in relation to sharing), the more effective their work will be. I just wrote a post about this myself:

    http://www.cruxcatalyst.com/2012/06/28/has-the-green-door-been-bolted

    We would do better to knock on the ‘Blue Door’ of sharing than the ‘Green Door’.

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  3. You may want to correct “affect” in the last sentence, either to “aspect” or to “effect”…

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    1. Thanks @petercapek, fixed.

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  4. Daniel Cole Monday, July 2, 2012

    Research noted. I’ve heard very similar things in doing customer research for my collaborative consumption startup ToolSpinner. I think companies that are inherently green are the best kind. Customers want to spend less and receive more. Collaborative consumption can provide these benefits while also being green in the process. Transparent environmentalism if the best kind in my opinion.

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