Collaborative Consumption: Conceptual Snapshot at a Buzzword
Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, 19(2), pp. 1-23, 2016
23 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2016 Last revised: 14 Dec 2016
Date Written: June 23, 2016
Considerable work has focused on Collaborative Consumption (CC) from a managerial standpoint. Little academic research has been conducted into this specific concept. This paper proposes two theoretical contributions in that regard: 1) a definition of CC that enables to determine effectively whether any given resource distribution system can be labelled as CC or not; 2) the scope and limits of CC by contrasting it with other forms of exchanges. Consumers’ capacity to switch side from obtainment to provision or from “obtainer” to “provider” role constitutes the key criteria to identify a resource distribution system as being a form of CC. We define CC as the set of resource circulation systems which enable consumers to both obtain and provide, temporarily or permanently, valuable resources or services through direct interaction with other consumers or through a mediator. Collaborative Consumption is therefore a concept which stands in sharp contrast with the notion of Conventional Consumption. Conventional consumption – which underlies classic marketing thought – is a type of resource distribution system which involves passive consumers (not obtainers), who cannot, or are not given the capacity to, provide any resource or service (not providers). Incapable of engaging either in obtainment or in provision, their role is limited to that of buying – monetary exchange - and consuming organization-made resources or services, and, in the case of tangible resources, to discard them. In contrast, Collaborative Consumption involves not mere “consumers” but “obtainers” who may also be “providers”. In sum, consumers’ capacity to switch roles from provider to obtainer and from obtainer to provider, in a given resource distribution system, constitutes the key distinguishing criteria between conventional consumption and CC. We also introduce the consumer process that is specific to Collaborative Consumption by emphasizing that CC involves not only delegation, such as in conventional consumption, but also empowerment and quasi-empowerment. More specifically, delegation assumes that there is a clear distinction between organizations which produce and sell goods and consumers who buy those goods produced and sold by organizations. Consumers rely on organization-made advertising, texts, logos, labels, trademarks, brands and other communication to choose among the broad array of goods or other types of resources that are offered to them. Empowerment means that consumers are empowered to collaborate directly with each other. They organize, arrange and negotiate informally the terms and conditions of the exchange of valuable resources, including goods or services. Under the concept of empowerment, consumers engage in what we call pure collaboration, where both the obtainer and the provider are consumers, such as in a secondhand purchase or sale at a flea market. As a middle-ground between delegation and empowerment, quasi-empowerment involves consumer-to-consumer exchanges that are mediated by a third-party, which is typically an organization. Under the concept of quasi-empowerment, consumers engage either in sourcing collaboration or in trading collaboration. Sourcing collaboration means that the provider provides a resources or service to the obtainer through a mediator. On the other hand, trading collaboration means that the obtainer obtains a resource from the provider through that specific mediator.
Keywords: collaborative consumption, sharing economy, provider, obtainer, conventional consumption, empowerment, delegation
JEL Classification: M30, M31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation