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The linked article came in as a response by reader Sylvain to an earlier post about how “sharing” is fuzzy-talk for renting. It’s from the Harvard Business Review, not a regular part of my breakfast reading.

It describes the missteps some companies have made in believing that consumers actually want to share with others. The entire piece is worth reading; here, for example, is a comment about the “car share” field:

Our own research on Zipcar demonstrates this point. When consumers use the world’s leading car sharing service they don’t feel any of the reciprocal obligations that arise when sharing with one another. They experience Zipcar in the anonymous way one experiences a hotel; they know others have used the cars, but have no desire to interact with them. They don’t view other Zipsters as co-sharers of the cars, but rather are mistrustful of them, and rely on the company to police the sharing system so it’s equitable for everyone.

This insight − that it is an access economy rather than a sharing economy – has important implications for how companies in this space compete. It implies that consumers are more interested in lower costs and convenience than they are in fostering social relationships with the company or other consumers. Companies that understand this will have a competitive advantage. For example, we are currently seeing the rise of Uber in the short-term car-ride market. Uber positions itself squarely around its pricing, reliability, and convenience. This is encapsulated in their tagline, “Better, faster and cheaper than a taxi.” In comparison, Lyft, which offers an almost identical service, positions itself as friendly (“We’re your friend with a car”), and as a community (“Greet your driver with a fistbump”). Lyft has not seen nearly the same amount of growth as Uber, and a contributing reason is because they are putting too much emphasis on consumers’ desire to “share” with each other.