Almost all of us here has contributed to the rise of the sharing economy. While the word “share” is defined as giving a portion of something to someone or others which clearly has a positive connotation, is that really the case in this scenario?
A poll conducted by the European Commission reports that ⅓ of people aged 25-29 have tried a sharing economy service, leading to changing consumer behavior in how people move and encourage traveling (Bae et al, 2017). The age group is known for being heavy users of social media, emphasizing the link between social media use and the sharing economy (Lin, 2020) as they have similar forms with a compulsory use of real names and display important information to both sellers and consumers.
While the barriers to entry are low and the platforms are easy to use, sharing economy is heavily dependent on social media to reach its target market while utilizing user rating and recommendation systems to encourage reputation building. From the outside perspective it’s merely a commercial transaction we are used to in this digital era but is the exchange of services for money the only thing that is involved in the transaction? They may be free to download and use for us but it seems like we are the products itself (Buckingham, 2017). They sell our personal data to advertisers; our locations, the stickers we use, the events we attend, and our deleted searches enable them to create an advertisement profile. Their facial recognition database could be used to gather all of our information available in other platforms which is…disturbing, at the very least.
The lack of regulations may encourage complacency as the providers are not required to follow as many rules (Neuberger, 2019). Airbnb rooms are not inspected, uber drivers only need to have a driver’s license and their vehicles approved while taxi drivers need to apply for driver accreditation consisting of a medical examination as well as examining their driving history. Although it makes the services more affordable, do we just accept the fact that we have to simply trust the providers with our needs and safety?
Call me old-fashioned but what makes my experience meaningful with a brand is the personal interaction. With this new business model, customers do not feel the need to be loyal to a brand as they tend to pick the service with the lowest rates. UberEats may be my favorite but once I get that email saying I can use a code to get free delivery with no minimum order from Menulog, I’d switch with no hesitation for that specific purchase. More sign-up incentives and cheap deals lead to higher number of competitors that keep coming in, and one bad experience may result in instant brand-switching. While this is not particularly harmful to the society, it may be difficult for these brands to retain its customers while still keeping the same level of profit margins.
Let me know in the comments if there is any other aspect of the sharing economy you disapprove, or extremely pleasant and unpleasant experiences!
Disclaimer: all images used are creative commons