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The Key Role of Communal Identification for Collaborative Consumption Platforms
Authors: Hugo Guyader (Linköping University, Sweden), Lars Witell (Linköping University, Sweden), Sabine Benoit (Surrey Business School, UK)
Collaborative consumption is a peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange of goods and services facilitated by online platforms. Anchored in the “access paradigm” (Lovelock and Gummesson 2004), this phenomenon strengthens the platform providers role of service enabler, not directly involved in the interactions and transactions between peer providers and consumers (Benoit et al. 2017). Contrary to traditional access-based services where customers use the resources owned by a firm (Schaefers et al. 2016), the interactive characteristic of collaborative consumption emphasizes the social aspects of P2P exchanges. For instance, individuals physically meet each other when renting an accommodation via Airbnb or ridesharing via BlaBlaCar—not when carsharing with Zipcar.
Whereas the “sharing economy” was heavily debated in the popular press, empirical service research on P2P exchanges is scant. Particularly debated are “sharewashing” practices when rental (monetary transaction) is disguised as sharing (non-monetary) and community ideals are over-used by platform providers in the semantics of the “sharing economy” (Price and Belk 2016). For example, social interactions (e.g., connect to people, make new friends) and “living like a local” is portrayed as one of the main advantages for collaborative consumption by the platform providers (e.g. Airbnb). However, it is unknown whether these advantages really encourage ongoing usage and how vital they are for the sustainability of platform business model (Kumar et al. 2018). Thus, the aim of this research is to test the role of communal identification among platform users and authenticity for the sharing ethos for active participation in collaborative consumption.
The study is situated in the context of ridesharing (US: carpooling), and based on an original dataset (n = 495) composed of survey responses and platform usage metrics (active participants). The conceptual model was tested using PLS-SEM and the results show high reliability and validity. In particular, the results show that there is a competitive partial mediation of communal identification between satisfaction and platform usage. Participants who are satisfied with their collaborative consumption experience are more likely to use the platform if they feel like belonging to a community. Additional analyses (i.e. first stage moderated parallel multiple mediation, Hayes 2015) show that sharing authenticity (i.e. true sharing vs. “sharewashing”) strengthens the mediating effect of communal identification: at higher levels of sharing authenticity, communal identification is more important for the relationship between satisfaction and platform usage (while controlling for traditional measures of attitudinal loyalty, which mediating effect is weakened by sharing authenticity).
This study contributes to a greater understanding of collaborative consumption by showing the influential roles of communal identification and sharing authenticity for platform usage—which is different from access-based services characterized by self-interests and a lack of brand or communal identification (Bardhi and Eckhardt 2012; Schaefers et al. 2016).