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Jean-Samuel Beuscart, Orange Labs, explains the sharing economy

A sociologist, Jean-Samuel Beuscart is a researcher at Orange Labs. At the latest Global Lodging Forum, he explained some of his research focusing on the digital transformation of markets and consumerism.

Collaborative consumption corresponds to a group of online services whose vocation it is to organize the exchanges of goods and services between individuals. In order to be considered collaborative, these actors must meet three criteria: be at the core of an online platform service; provide intermediation between owners of supply and those in demand; and at least part of the supply offered must be provided by individuals. Internet has radically changed the scale of behavior and the efficiency of the sharing economy. However, only 15% say they have shared the use of an apartment, or an automobile, suggesting the sector still has a wide growth margin.

While the sharing economy appears to be more ecological and allows more satisfactory consumption that revitalizes local social ties, it also has its detractors. In his book What's yours is mine, Tom Slee reproaches this type of consumption on four counts: it leads to disloyal competition; it hurts the territory particularly as far as concerns the local real estate market; the value it generates benefits platforms more than the participants themselves; and it does not enable a revitalization of the social tie, but transforms its participants into "small capitalists" and calculators.

We thus asked how much consumption is represented by the sharing economy by doing a survey through a panel of users. The result was that users were first and foremost consumers, and not militants, seeking the best product for the best price. Yet the economic argument was never isolated in their answers, but accompanied by a desire to renew social links and protect the environment.

We then wondered if the sharing economy made it possible for users to detach themselves with regard to the notion of ownership and thereby durably modify behavior. While some respondents declared they no longer own a car thanks to the sharing economy, others adopted binge consumption as reselling is now much easier, especially via websites such as Leboncoin.com and Videdressing.com. We have observed an intrinsic ambiguity in the ecological promise made by the sharing economy.

Finally, as for the question of strengthening social ties, we have observed that the sharing economy continued to be a purely commercial exchange for most of its users, meaning an exchange for a strictly equivalent sum of money between strangers who treat one another as such. While this is clearly the case prior to the transaction, with a standardization of supply and minimized interaction, the relationship changes upon meeting to one that is more of a social exchange. In some cases, commercial relations are thus sublimated by collaborative consumption.

Would you like to learn more about shared accommodations, its actors and their profiles? What regulations are applicable? Read our special dossier in Hospitality ON: Behind the Scenes of Shared Accommodations.

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