Growth Strategies

Most Consumers Are Leery of the Sharing Economy

The biggest issue for users and potential users of sharing services is personal safety, a survey shows.
David McCannDecember 5, 2018
Most Consumers Are Leery of the Sharing Economy

Companies that are weighing whether to enter the “sharing economy” in some fashion may be challenged to win customers’ trust.

In a new survey commissioned by Lloyd’s of London, 58% of U.S. and U.K. consumers said the risks of using sharing services outweighed the benefits. That’s despite the fact that, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers blog cited in the Lloyd’s survey report, the size of the global sharing economy is expected to reach $335 billion by 2025, up from about $15 billion in 2014.

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The survey, performed by research firm Coleman Parkes, included 2,000 consumers in both the United States and China and 1,000 in the United Kingdom. Also participating were 30 sharing-economy companies, which typically offer technology platforms allowing consumers and individual service providers (such as Uber drivers and people listing accommodations on Airbnb) to find one another.

Ordering an Uber.

Chinese consumers were by far the most enthusiastic about the sharing economy, with 68% saying the benefits outweigh the risks.

The survey identified the top five perceived risks, some borne by users of sharing services and some borne by providers:

  • There’s a risk to personal safety when interacting with strangers.
  • There is no guarantee regarding the quality of the services.
  • People’s assets could be damaged when shared.
  • The assets could be stolen.
  • There aren’t sufficient safeguards or protections in place for users of the service if something goes wrong.

The top five benefits were:

  • It can be cheaper for users.
  • It is more convenient for users.
  • It provides more flexibility for users.
  • It provides a source of income for providers.
  • Providers can earn money from their assets when not using them.

The potential for companies to join the sharing economy appears to be great. “Broadly speaking, virtually anything is sharable,” the survey report noted.

As a result, several different sharing-economy models have emerged: peer-to-peer (e.g., Airbnb, Uber, Toolsity, Lending Club, Task Rabbit); business-to-business (Yardclub, Cohealo, Flexe, Cargomatic); and business-to-crowd (Zipcar, WeWork, Rent the Runway, Too Good to Go).

Roughly half (54%) of the 5,000 survey respondents said they were consumers or users of sharing-economy services and products, while 16% reported having provided a service or product through a sharing-economy website.

Unsurprisingly, Lloyd’s included in the survey several questions related to insurance for shared services. Among the vast majority of survey participants who have not provided a service or asset for sharing, 70% said they would be more likely to do so if they knew it was  protected by insurance.

And 78% of providers listing assets or services on sharing-economy platforms indicated they would get more customers if the platform offered insurance solutions.

While there was broad agreement among survey respondents that insurance should be provided for sharing services, there was just as broad disagreement over who should provide it.

“Lloyd’s has long provided insurance solutions for tangible physical assets, but when thinking about protection for a shared economy model, the greatest threats are often intangible — notably trust and reputation,” said Vincent Vandendael, chief commercial officer at Lloyd’s, in a foreword to the survey report.

While 45% of those surveyed assumed sharing platforms provide insurance coverage for users and providers of sharing services, only 28% made a detailed effort to determine whether such coverage in fact existed.

While there was broad agreement among survey respondents that insurance should be provided for sharing services, there was just as broad disagreement over who should provide it.

Among consumers, 53% said sharing-economy platforms should provide the insurance, and 32% said the individual service providers should. Just 15% of the consumers said they themselves should be responsible.

Among sharing-economy companies, opinion was almost the reverse: 53% said consumers should be responsible, 27% put the onus on individual providers, and just 20% said sharing-economy platforms should provide insurance.