Why book a hotel room when someone’s apartment is left empty? Why catch a cab when you have a “friend with a car”? Such is the logic behind Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, and other collaborative consumption services that have exploded in popularity. The services are typically more convenient and less expensive than traditional alternatives, but also tote loftier implications, like bringing together members of a community and facilitating a sharing economy.

We at Survata were curious if consumers use collaborative consumption services mostly for the practical benefits (like price and convenience), or if the sharing economy ethos was a significant motivator. So we surveyed 554 people who used some of the most popular ridesharing and roomsharing services and asked why they chose to do so.

Sharing is caring

Overall, the majority of people say they used services such as Lyft, Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Uber, Zipcar, and RelayRides for practical service benefits. “Convenience,” “price,” and “level of service” were the three most common answers when consumers were asked to describe why they use the services. However, a significant portion of respondents also cited motivations more in line with the sharing community, such as “meeting new people” and “supporting individuals in my community.”


Hitching a ride

When looking at customers of specific collaborative consumption services, we found that their motivations differed significantly. For example, Lyft and Uber, two ridesharing cab alternatives, draw customers for notably different reasons. Lyft aims to offer a social vibe, as reflected by their tagline of “your friend with a car” and fist bump greeting policy. Uber has a variety of service levels, from uberX, a service equitable to Lyft, to uberBLACK, which offers luxury cars at a premium price. The data shows people who use Uber are more likely to cite “level of service” and “convenience” as reasons for using the service, while Lyft users are  more likely to answer “meeting new people” and “supporting individuals in my community.”


Rooms for rent

Airbnb, while obviously operating in a different industry than Uber and Lyft, seems to have a relatively large portion of customers who list both service aspects and collaborative consumption aspects as reasons for using the service. “Convenience” and “price” were the top two answers, and “meeting new people” and “supporting individuals in my community” were also significantly above overall averages.


Our take

While fostering a community economy and bringing people together are admirable business goals, the data suggests that such aspects alone aren’t a sufficient motivator to win customers over, especially if they come at the expense of price or service level. Collaborative consumption services continue to take off (as evidenced by the popularity of the “Airbnb for x” startup formula), and we’re intrigued to see how brand messages evolve as more competition enters the market.

Footnotes for our fellow data geeks

  1. We interviewed 554 online respondents from January 22 to February 11, 2014.
  2. You can download the underlying data here.
  3. You can analyze the underlying data in Statwing here.

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