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The end of ownership?

The pay-to-use economy, subscription services and circular use are on the rise

Mon Feb 03 04:30:00 EST 2020

Back in the 18th century, people used to hire pineapples as status symbols to put on display for guests. Centuries later, we’re seeing a rise in people renting a whole range of unconventional items.

Changes in consumer trends and a host of innovative technologies with seamless payments built in are seeing us moving away from an ownership economy, towards a ‘pay-to-use’ economy.

From music to movies and jewellery to cars

We all love clocking up the hours streaming music by our favourite artists. Streaming services are driving a sea change in the way we listen to music, benefiting both the industry and the consumer. Up-and-coming bands have more visibility through self-promotion, and algorithms that recommend new music based on your personal taste means consumers have the chance to connect with artists they perhaps wouldn’t have back when they needed to buy an album.

The past ten years or so have seen a gradual drop in ownership. Where in the past you’d head to your local video store to grab the latest blockbuster for a one-off cost – today’s film, TV and music lovers have a world of entertainment at their fingertips in their smartphones. New technology has smoothed out the process; the rise of smart speakers means we can choose our entertainment, without lifting a finger.

From high-end jewellery to electronics and even camping gear, rental services are popping up across the board. The convenience of ride-sharing apps means that many who live in urban areas can get where we need to go without owning a car. There’s even the option to join an electric car club, helping improve emissions on the road. With autonomous vehicle technology improving all the time, there may soon come a day when we don’t even need a taxi driver.

New models and sustainability

This shift in attitude highlights another key trend in the consumer space, where people are consuming less and only paying for what they need. We’re seeing an increased interest in a minimalist lifestyle and a greater demand for rental, sharing and subscription-based models.

These new models of working and doing business are changing how we look at everything from film to food shopping and even more traditionally ‘precious’ or ‘owned’ areas like jewellery. Will we ever truly own anything again?

Sustainability is high on the agenda. In fashion, an ever-growing commitment to eco-conscious construction and development has seen the high-street providing sustainable options for conscious shoppers. Consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of the impact of so-called ‘throwaway’ fashion leading to alternatives choices such as circular fashion and fashion rental services. These concepts are providing increasingly popular ways for fashionistas to get the look without the burden of ownership, freeing up wardrobe space and lessening the impact on the environment. This approach isn’t new as such; from high fashion rentals to suit hire, clothes rentals have been around for decades – we’re just now seeing them become a part of everyday life, allowing people to use, reuse and recirculate clothes.

Invisible payments

One of the reasons these new models are becoming so popular and easy to use is the increase in fintech solutions to take payments behind the scenes. Embedded payments within music streaming or car club rental schemes make it frictionless and so the payment itself becomes invisible. Payments are being re-invented and are no longer a step in the process, it’s completely seamless.  As Rob Cameron, CEO, Barclaycard Payment Solutions set out in a recent piece, it’s now easier to live in a world without cards or cash. It’s all about convenience as people want to simplify their lives as well as the payment experience, without losing any of the security.

With easy payment options, the increasing understanding and awareness of mental health and the benefits associated with being minimalist and owning less, it’s likely people will be increasingly dependent on the ability to dip in and out of products and services and share with other people. Forbes predicts that the sharing economy will go from $15bn in 2014 to as much as $335bn by 2025. Perhaps it’s time to leave ownership in the past – just like those old VHS tapes.