Access, Not Ownership March 2014
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Attitudes toward ownership and affordability have changed. As the previous Scan™ article Consumer Commitment Anxiety discusses, people wary of long-term financial commitment are shunning ownership; a rental generation views ownership not only as expensive but also as constraining. Many young Europeans want to use the latest products but have no desire to own them outright. To make expensive products accessible, some brands—including clothes labels—are adopting schemes traditionally used by, say, car companies. Arguably, they are filling in the gap that credit cards and loans traditionally filled. Mud Jeans (Rhenen, Netherlands) allows Dutch consumers to lease a pair of its designer jeans worth €100 ($135) for €5 ($6.75) per month, with a down payment of €20 ($27). After a year, consumers can hand the jeans back or pay a final fee and keep them.
The concept of replacing commitment and ownership with flexible access is spreading to other sectors, and a range of interesting business models are emerging. For example, Anticafé (Paris, France) charges customers by the hour to use its shared office/café space. While customers are paying to use the space, they have unlimited access to coffee, snacks, fast Wi-Fi, printers, and projectors. Professionals could visit Anticafé to plan start-ups and collaborate with like-minded individuals. Anticafé and other operations that give people the option to pay for access to amenities and professional equipment in a shared space could compete against commercial office spaces.
Because of the slow economic recovery and the reluctance of many firms to hire full-time workers, the number of very qualified people able and willing to do short-term projects is rising. Online marketplaces offer companies access to well-qualified freelancers who, for various reasons, are not in full-time positions. For example, Linio (Mexico City, Mexico) used such a marketplace to secure the services of an MBA who had spare time before starting a full-time position at another company. However, Clayton Christensen, an expert on disruptive innovation, notes that these marketplaces could have a negative effect on the existing consulting industry.