Is the death of ownership upon us?
A recent Fast Company article by Josh Allan Dykstra, “Why Millennials Don’t Want to Buy Stuff,” explores the shift in buying behavior.
Humanity is experiencing an evolution in consciousness. We are starting to think differently about what it means to “own” something. This is why a similar ambivalence towards ownership is emerging in all sorts of areas, from car-buying to music listening to entertainment consumption. Though technology facilitates this evolution and new generations champion it, the big push behind it all is that our thinking is changing.
Dykstra’s point is well-made: both technology and our thinking create a new market for renting.
The future of renting
It’s not only the digital world that’s become rent-heavy. Earlier this year, The Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang asked about the future of renting on Google+:
You for rent: I can rent your HOUSE with AirBnB. I can rent your CAR with GetAround. I can rent your TIME and EXPERTISE with taskrabbit, crowdflower. What else can we rent in the future? What’s left?
The concept of subscriptions has created a culture of niche clubs. A fashion blog offers a monthly subscription for pocket squares (Put This On). A book distributor encourages monthly lending (BookSwim). There are even entire online communities for renting nearly anything (Zilok).
Through changes in consumer behavior and advancements in technology, is the concept of ownership on the verge of extinction? Dykstra argues that consumers are purchasing for reasons beyond the feeling of ownership:
People buy things because of what they can do with them… People buy things because of what they can tell others about it… [and] People buy things because of what having it says about them.
Millennials want access over ownership, streaming over storing, and rentals over buying.
Reacting to consumer behavior
The shift goes beyond millennials – businesses are now turning toward services via rentals or subscriptions.
Adobe recently launched its Creative Cloud service where businesses pay a monthly fee to utilize all of Adobe’s product offerings. Instead of paying for a license, designers, producers and creators can “rent” Adobe’s programs and services for as long as they like.
Adobe’s actions come as part of a much larger trend in services and content consumption.Netflix, Hulu and Amazon offer streaming movies and television shows that don’t require the purchase of a television or cable box, while companies like Spotify and Rhapsody offer a subscription music service.
Hardware technologies have followed suit – the storage industry blossomed with cloud offerings, removing consumers’ needs for local storage. Movies, music, photos and other documents can be accessed through the cloud and retrieved at anytime. Apple’s iCloud service and Rackspace are some of the most popular.
Without the need for massive hard drives, personal computers increasingly use flash storage as a faster way to access data. The capacities are significantly smaller but the responsiveness of the computer’s operating system greatly benefits.
In short, consumer behavior informs business strategies and decisions.
Renting in B2B
Does the same purchasing theory apply to B2B? It seems to be headed in that direction. At HB, we work with several businesses who offer their services as subscriptions and rentals. The Meltwater Group provides a social media engagement service sold to corporations and agencies. We want access to data – not the data itself. Shutterstock offers access to an enormous library of photos and videos – none of which we pay for individually. Instead, our monthly subscription serves as our gateway to content.
We see consumer behavior shifting. But it’s the businesses – and how they will change theirselling behavior – that must change in order to survive. How will your business adapt to a culture of renting?