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Own Nothing

Values have shifted. Expectations have changed. Access now trumps ownership, and the most innovative products and services embrace this shift. 

Owning a car once made a statement about an individual’s self fashioned image. Consumers once bought an identity along with their automobile, where owning a Jaguar equated you to James Bond and driving a mini-van immediately made you a soccer mom. Consumers today identify with options, choices, and flux rather than one branded identity. 

Today’s consumers prefer access over ownership. Access is having all the benefits without responsibility. Ownership provides access tethered with obligation. Furthermore, ownership is an access ‘if, then’ statement, where only an upfront commitment grants full benefits.

Ownership demands car payments, credit history, and a pained purchase process. Access offers mobility, options, and power. To identify with ownership means to be committed in all the wrong ways. It translates to being tied down whereas access cuts off all the strings attached. 

To compound this shift, on demand access is now an expectation. Ironically, it’s no longer a demand but rather a deeply ingrained heuristic. We now expect a cab’s ETA, fare, and availability on an app and dread hailing one ourselves. 

Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky shared a similar sentiment in a New York Times article: 

“There used to be a romanticism about ownership, because it meant you were free, you were empowered,” Chesky answered. “I think now, for the younger generation, ownership is viewed as a burden. Young people will only want to own what they want responsibility for. And a lot of people my age don’t want responsibility for a car and a house and to have a lot of stuff everywhere. What I want to own is my reputation, because in this hyperconnected world, reputation will give you access to all kinds of things now. … Your reputation now is like having a giant key that will allow you to open more and more doors. [Young people] today don’t want to own those doors, but they will want the key that unlocks them.”

Car sharing paves this road to access. Startups such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar keep a pulse on demand by being on demand. These companies champion the cultural shift by rewarding and endorsing behaviors. 

Car sharing possesses a unique opportunity to push access over ownership. Strategic partnerships across industries could galvanize car sharing and further alter the landscape for both auto and transportation alike. With additional seamless integration across lifestyles, car sharing companies will continue to reap the benefits of this cultural shift. Some suggested partnerships include:


Hotels + Airbnb

A doorman may offer to call a cab, but we all know this will take longer than opening up an app yourself. 

Upon leaving your hotel room, the front desk should be notified to request a car. Push notifications or texts can confirm with the guest the final location. A car arrives by the time the guest reaches the lobby. 

In the pursuit of an ever better travel experience, Airbnb can pair a personal driver with each booked listing. Guests can share itineraries with drivers and schedule travel with the same trusted driver. 


Airports + Airlines

We expect the same package when it comes to travel: booking a plane ticket comes with suggested car rental services for an all encompassing travel experience. Or worse, we find ourselves waiting on the airport curb without a plan of action. 

Upon booking a ticket, airlines such as Virgin America can sync travel itineraries to existing car service accounts. Planning travel to and from the airport, travelers will be notified when a car is within reach before the flight and after landing. 

Financial Services

Credit Cards + Financial Startups

We already see Uber partnering with American Express membership awards programs. The glossy Uber and AMEX lifestyles mix well together. 

Venmo and Square Cash could enable car sharing between both friends and (friendly) strangers. By either partnering in the payment system or offering rewards, financial and car service startups blend the best of sharing economy-worlds. 

In other words: If you’ll provide it, I’ll take it. Access is easy.

Megan Foy is a Strategist at Use All Five.
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