The consumer of the future is a renter, not an owner

I recently gave a talk on my thoughts on the future of marketplaces. These posts lay out that talk in more detail. This is post 2 of 3. (see post 1)

Today, we use the words consumer and buyer interchangeably. The default assumption is that if you're purchasing, you must be an owner. However, over the course of the last several years, this idea is no longer true. To me, the prime example here is legal media content from services such as Spotify or Netflix. 

I'm dating myself here but I remember buying CDs direct from Columbia House for years as a teenager and anxiously awaiting my latest shipment. I even remember waiting for sales at the local big box store so I could buy my own VHS tapes of my favorite movie. Now, I can't remember the last time I bought a CD, a DVD or for that matter, even a digital movie on any of the streaming services available today. A sample poll I conducted on Twitter with 200 votes reveals that 66% of people haven't bought a DVD in the past year. 

One thing that I thought particularly interesting about this poll was to hear why people still buy physical content and the primary reasons were international locations and lack of internet access. We're extremely fortunate in the United States in so many ways but this reminded me that access to almost anything is something that many of us take for granted. That said, I truly do believe that all marketplaces have the potential to be global and that any company that doesn't move towards that is invariably going to fail in the long-run. Netflix alone has announced availability in 130 countries and while the content is still to come, this is a clear sign of intent. While this post (and my PoV) is colored by my own experiences, I see these marketplace trends repeat themselves all around the world.

If digital content was the first step, then today, we see this renter versus owner model play out in the physical world too. This happens in such diverse industries as fashion (Rent the Runway, Le Tote), textbooks (Chegg) and even business equipment rental (Kwipped). Psychologically, the idea that owning is superior to renting is disappearing. The success of books like Marie Kondo's "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" is testament to the less is more philosophy becoming more prevalent than ever.

In the future, we'll own only the things that evoke a deep emotional response. And for everything else, rentals will do just fine.