Millennials and the Sharing Economy: European Perspectives. Report for the EU Horizon 2020 project Ps2Share: Participation, Privacy, and Power in the Sharing Economy.

Ranzini, G., Newlands, G., Anselmi, G., Andreotti, A., Eichhorn, T., Etter, M., Hoffmann, C., Jürss, S., & Lutz, C. (2017). Millennials and the Sharing Economy: European Perspectives. Report for the EU Horizon 2020 project Ps2Share: Participation, Privacy, and Power in the Sharing Economy.

In the last years, the sharing economy has emerged as an alternative to traditional exchanges, introducing the idea that users can grant other users temporary access to their goods and services for economic compensation. This shift was made largely possible by technological evolutions: Sharing platforms, which match users who share (providers) with users willing to pay for access (consumers), are based online and many services are available exclusively through a smartphone.

The nature of the sharing economy, aimed at least initially at co-consumption, and its technological dependency have led both media and academic outlets to link it strongly to the so called ‘Millennial generation’ (Anderson & Rainie, 2010; Belk, 2014; Godelink, 2017). Born between 1982 and 1996 and having lived through an economic crisis as either teenagers or young adults, Millennials have so far shown somewhat divergent consumption patterns when compared to older generations. Previous research has shown that Millennials in the US, for instance, are less likely to be homeowners (Xu, Johnson, Bartholomae, O’Neill, & Gutter, 2015) and are more likely to choose public or shared transportation over owning their own car (Klein & Smart, 2017). It is therefore not surprising that Millennials have been identified as ‘driving’ the growth of the sharing economy (Maycotte, 2015).

Aiming to directly approach the experience of consumers in the sharing economy, this report presents the results from an in-depth analysis of qualitative data which emerged from 18 focus groups conducted concurrently across six European countries (Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and The United Kingdom). Our findings, based on a sample of Millennial consumers of the sharing economy, paint a picture of the meanings, expectations, and obstacles which emerge from interacting with peers and platforms.

This report is part of a European Union Horizon 2020 Research Project on the sharing economy: Ps2Share ‘Participation, Privacy, and Power in the Sharing Economy’. The initial stage of this Research Project involved a set of three literature reviews of the state of research on three core topics in relation to the sharing economy: participation (Andreotti, Anselmi, Eichhorn, Hoffmann, & Micheli, 2017), privacy (Ranzini, Etter, Lutz, & Vermeulen, 2017), and power (Newlands, Lutz, & Fieseler, 2017a). The second step consisted of a series of focus groups conducted across six European countries, the results of which are presented in this report. The third step consisted of a large-scale survey of citizens of twelve European countries, the results of which are to be found in three separate reports, covering privacy in the sharing economy (Ranzini, Etter, & Vermeulen, 2017), participation in the sharing economy (Andreotti, Anselmi, Eichhorn, Hoffmann, Jürss, & Micheli, 2017), and power in the sharing economy (Newlands, Lutz, & Fieseler, 2017b).

This report, focusing solely on the focus group analysis, is structured around the three themes covered by the EU Horizon 2020 Ps2Share Research Project: Participation, Privacy, and Power. The report commences with an executive summary and a brief overview of our methodology and objectives. Following on, chapter 4 focuses on participation and covers consumers’ motives and obstacles for operating in the sharing economy. Chapter 5 covers our analysis of privacy topics and includes consumers’ perceived risks and defensive behaviors. Chapter 6 focuses on power and reports on what consumers perceive as the challenges and power-dynamics of the sharing economy. The report closes with a discussion of key conclusions, drawn from across the differentiated topics. More details about the methodology, as well as a description of participants and the focus group guidelines, can be found in the Appendices.