Generation Y and the sharing economy



‘Sharing economy’ is on everyone’s mouth these days: in a complex global economy, it’s one of the only sectors currently experiencing a vertical growth fuelled by a seemingly unstoppable collaborative consumption boom. A recent PWC report has forecasted that in 2025, the sharing economy will generate up to $335b in profit – at the moment we are around the $15b mark. The names of the trendsetting giants leading the market are already well known: Uber, Airbnb, BlaBlaCar and many more. Just think about bike and car sharing, which are now deeply rooted realities in many big cities and small towns alike, both in Italy and abroad.

PWC has identified in the 18-24 age range the category that pays more attention to this kind of economy, revealing that this so-called generation Y doesn’t seem to care much about ownership. What they are interested in is the experience as a whole: despite having a valid driving licence, many don’t understand why they should splash a large amount of money on a car, especially when there are many other options available, such as sharing a vehicle when needed. This current of thoughts applies to many other consumer goods.

We are talking about a trend and a whole market based on something both extremely precious and intangible: trust. Trusting complete strangers, through a platform: with Airbnb, those who are renting out a space are basically letting someone completely unknown inside their home. With Uber, those jumping in a cab are paying for a lift from someone they don’t know at all. With BlaBlaCar, the world’s most famous ride sharing service, it’s just the same, drivers are sharing car and expenses with people they just met online.

Those who choose to rely on these platforms are not necessarily naive. The data published by PWC, to the contrary, highlights how the level of trust towards strangers among young generations has never been as low as it is now. But, as the trust in people and institutions reaches an all-time low, what seems to be growing is the trust in the wisdom of the crowd. In other words: I will not directly trust you, but I will trust your Airbnb rating, based on other people’s experiences.