Most Americans have accessed the sharing economy

Ronny Kerr · May 20, 2016 · Short URL:

Half of U.S. adults have purchased used goods online; many have ordered on-demand deliveries

Here in San Francisco, we have a somewhat skewed sense of things. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if you said you hailed an Uber to get to work in the morning, dialed DoorDash to order lunch in the afternoon, and then frantically requested a TaskRabbit to assemble your furniture in the evening.

But how much does the rest of the country engage with the sharing economy? Quite a bit, apparently.

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of Americans have used a service that can be categorized as part of the sharing economy, according to new data from a national Pew Research Center survey of 4,787 American adults.

Pew analyzed this data by breaking up the sharing economy (or collaborative economy… or on-demand economy) into 11 different categories. Surprisingly, in spite of Uber’s dominance in the headlines and its astronomical valuation making it the most highly valued private company in the world, ride-hailing apps didn’t even fall into the top five of these categories.

At the very top came the second-hand marketplace companies. Half of U.S. adults, according to Pew, have purchased used or secondhand goods online. While this may include newer upstarts like Twice or Vinted (the vintage clothing marketplace whose CEO and founder spoke at Vator Splash last week), there’s another reason this category’s the most prominent: it includes Craigslist and eBay, two services that have now been around for over two decades.

Nearly half of Americans (41 percent) have used programs for same-day or expedited delivery. Again, while this may include a whole host of new services like Postmates and Deliv, Pew also threw Amazon Prime and Google Express into the mix. Certainly, those are on-demand services, but they don’t really have anything to do with the sharing economy.

Rounding out the top five are "purchased tickets from online reseller" (28 percent), "purchased handmade or artisanal products online" (22 percent), and "contributed to online fundraising project" (22 percent). Examples of these companies include StubHub and SeatGeek for the first category, Etsy for the second, and Kickstarter and Indiegogo for the third.

To its credit, the writers of this new Pew report identified the overlap between the sharing (or on-demand) economy’s older and newer players:

“As is the case with many of the services themselves, the way these services function is not necessarily new. People have been selling used or handmade items on peer-to-peer commerce platforms like eBay and Craigslist since the early days of the modern web.”

“But while these new shared and on-demand services are in some respects little different from others that came before them, they have presented a number of challenges to regulatory and policy structures that in many cases predate the internet era by decades.”

Still, it’s powerful seeing real data demonstrating exactly how much these services are continuing to grow their customer bases.

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Uber is a ridesharing service headquartered in San Francisco, United States, which operates in multiple international cities. The company uses a smartphone application to arrange rides between riders and drivers.