Shared goods, divided opinions

  • December 12, 2016
1024 469 eNet

Even though the definition of sharing / peer-to-peer / collaborative economy has remained unclear for years, the economic model itself is gaining ground not only internationally but in Hungary as well. Slightly more than one third of Hungarian adult Internet users have heard about the notion of collaborative / sharing economy, and one in five respondents actually participates in it based on eNET’s questionnaire-based online research conducted in November 2016.

Sharing economy – no longer in the pipeline

Two years ago, when eNET had looked into the matter of sharing economy for the first time, they found that it was still in an early phase (click here for eNET’s first article about this topic). The largest players in peer-to-peer economy have strengthened in the past two years, and neither conventional competitors nor regulators have been able to adequately address the issues raised by their presence in the market. After two years of operation, Uber exited the country in the summer of 2016, but new services and providers immediately filled the market niche. Airbnb, the other large player in the sharing economy, acquired one fifth of the accommodation market in Hungary (measured by the number of guest nights) according to BDO. The various forms of sharing economy cannot be ignored any longer; but how do Hungarian Internet users relate to them?

Divided opinions

One third of adult Hungarian Internet users have heard about sharing or collaborative economy,  mostly meaning collective ownership and usage by the notion – but reciprocity, sharing, mutual lending, and cost-efficiency were also among the dimensions mentioned most often.

Internet users are currently moderately enthusiastic about peer-to-peer economy. They consider it an exciting new option, and a good way to protect the environment (46% agree with these statements), but the issue of trust, or rather the lack of it, is a strong restraining factor: almost 60% of the respondents do not have sufficient trust in strangers to let them use their property. Only one third of Internet users say that it’s a good idea to lend or share their valuable or unused goods.

Hungarian success stories: Oszkár, Rukkola, Miutcánk

Talking sharing economy effectively means talking shared cars and accommodation. Both of these services have a tendency to constantly and markedly dominate public discourse, especially in connection with the growing market share of the two largest players, Uber and Airbnb. It is little wonder that car and accommodation sharing constitute the key sectors of sharing economy, both in terms of awareness and the number of users. Provided with no list of options to choose from, Internet users spontaneously named Uber, Airbnb, Facebook and the Hungarian car sharing system Oszkár when asked what web sites or mobile apps they associated with collaborative / sharing economy.

Car sharing is one of the most widely known forms of sharing economy. Nine out of ten Internet users have heard about car sharing organised via a web site or through an application, and eight out of ten have heard about “community taxis”. After sharing cars, sharing accommodation is the most established service, six out of ten Internet users having heard about it. One in five people are familiar with crowdfunding, and slightly more than 10% are aware of the existence of community offices and coworking spaces. Thus general awareness of the fields involved is high; however, companies operating within them are yet to fully convert that awareness into actual service usage.

One good example is Uber. Awareness of the company saw a tenfold increase (to 79%) over its two-year operation in Hungary, but the ratio of its users remained single-digit (7%) – although, admittedly, the service had relatively little time to recruit users, and its availability was restricted to Budapest. As to Airbnb, although the company is a major player in the country’s accommodation market in terms of both the number of guest nights and turnover, Hungarian Internet users account for only a small fraction of the bookings done through websites of this type: only 4% have ever used Airbnb, and a mere 1% have used its rival, Couchsurfing.

Interestingly, while services provided by the large international actors of the sharing economy are known by many but used by relatively few, there is one Hungarian player that has been expanding slowly but steadily since its first launch. It is the carpooling service Oszkár Telekocsi: awareness of the service doubled since 2014, and the ratio of users amongst adult Internet users grew from 5% to 8%.

Two more national success stories are (website to exchange used books) and (location-based community website for neighbours to share things, thoughts and activities). These sites are known by slightly more than one tenth of Internet users, and used by 2% each. In online articles and blogs, Rukkola is the fourth most often mentioned player in Hungary’s sharing economy.

Dynamically growing participation

Twenty-two per cent of Hungarian Internet users participate in sharing economy in some way, primarily in car sharing– although the bicycle sharing initiative Bubi is also worth mentioning, used by 2% of Hungarian Internet-user adults, and another 14% considering its use in the future. A typical sharing economy user is young, lives in the capital, and is either highly qualified or a student – and most likely single, or cohabiting with their partner. Their dominant motivations are earning extra income, protecting the environment and lending a helping hand to others.

Despite regulatory issues and occasional Luddite moves by competitors in the conventional market, sharing economy continues to expand, and is expected to reach a large audience soon. More than half of Internet users are contemplating trying “community taxi” services, and the interest in car sharing is even higher: two-third of Internet users is considering getting involved as passengers, and half of them as drivers. Participation in accommodation sharing is an attractive option, too: four out of ten Internet users would be willing to open their doors to guests, or let their apartment through a website, in exchange for money or on a mutual basis. As to seeking accommodation, a realistic attitude prevails: most would prefer a place not inhabited by the owner and would rather pay for the accommodation than use it as a favour.

Based on the findings above, it is safe to say that collaborative economy is no longer in the pipeline; it has already moved in to our living room, and it’s now demanding a seat in our cars, too.