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Buying to Share: How Peer-to-Peer Sharing Promotes Product Purchase
Authors: Jan F. Klein (Tilburg University), Katrin Merfeld (EBS University), Mark-Philipp Wilhelms (EBS University), Tomas Falk (Aalto University), Sven Henkel (EBS University)
Due to its accelerating growth, the “sharing economy” has evolved into a crucial priority for managers and researchers alike. Initially, sharing services were provided by firms, which acquired, owned and shared the assets with consumers for a monetary compensation. This from of sharing is labeled “access-based” or “collaborative” consumption in research. However, this traditional business-to-consumer (B2C) model has changed with the advent of peer-to-peer asset sharing. In peer-to-peer sharing, consumers own and share products with other consumers via a sharing platform. Examples of well-known peer-to-peer sharing platforms include Airbnb (hospitality), Zilok (tools) and Getaround (cars). Carsharing in particular takes a leading role in this development as 50% of car owners in Europe and North America are willing to share their cars.
Despite growing interest in the sharing economy, research has thus far predominantly focused on the relationship between sharing platforms and renters in a traditional B2C context. As a result, existing research commonly position and investigate sharing as an alternative to product purchase and ownership. Specifically, sharing is seen as a way for renters to reduce the burdens of ownership by accessing products on a needs-basis. However, due to increasing availability of peer-to-peer sharing, consumers cannot only take part as renters but also as providers of products in the sharing economy. This new role of consumers as product-owners and providers in the sharing economy might change their decision whether or not to buy a product initially. In fact, surprisingly little is known how the opportunity to partake in peer-to-peer sharing as a provider affects consumer’s purchase decision.
The objective of this paper is to investigate how sharing affects consumer’s willingness to purchase products. Due to limited research on the role of providers in peer-to-peer sharing, we apply a mixed methods approach. We first conduct three focus groups to guide the development of our hypotheses. Subsequently, we test our hypotheses using two experimental studies involving 673 participants. In Experiment 1, we test the effect of peer-to-peer sharing on consumer’s purchase intention. Contrary to conventional wisdom that sharing decreases product purchase, we find that peer-to-peer sharing increases consumer’ purchase intentions – particular for more expensive products. Conducting a mediation analysis, we show that this effect is driven by the reduction of burdens of ownership that peer-to-peer sharing provides for product owners. In Experiment 2, we further validate this mechanism by illustrating that provider’s product purchase decisions are not only based on provider’s own brand preferences but are directly influenced by renter’s brand preferences. Our paper contributes to existing literature on the sharing economy and offers a new perspective on the role of burdens of ownership. We also provide guidance for manufacturers and outline avenues for further research on the sharing economy.