Consuming without owning. Whatever product or service you care to name, French people are increasingly opting for this approach, according to an IFOP survey published at end-June.

Rental and Subscription Services Disrupting Traditional Consumption Patterns

More than 50% of French people are now starting to break with traditional consumption patterns. This is among the findings of a survey – Les Français et l’abonnement (The French and Subscription Services) –carried out by IFOP, the France-based Institute of Public Opinion among a representative sample of French people, aged 18 and over, on behalf of Zuora, a California-based enterprise software company that designs and sells SaaS applications for companies via a subscription service. While ownership is still the dominant consumption model, the survey results show that French people are keen on a new form of consumerism based on sharing and impermanence. There are many reasons for this, among them a ″crisis in purchasing power, environmental challenges, a growing interest in the circular economy – many factors which point to a promising new market,” argues Zuora Vice President Marc Diouane.

A wide variety of goods and services

It appears that many French people regard a form of consumption based on renting and subscription as feasible for a wide range of services. For example, some 58% of those polled believe that tourism services will bend to this trend, mainly through the growth of short-term property rentals between private individuals. This is the model on which lodging rental website Airbnb has built its successful business. Almost as many of those surveyed (55%) foresee a growing trend towards renting mobile phones. More surprisingly, 30% of French people also foresee an increase in the renting of home appliances, a service already offered by Dutch startup Bundles, which has built its business model on renting out washing machines. “This approach to consumption is more free and easy, and without any restrictions, in short it’s more adaptable, and this is what consumers want these days,” stresses Philippe Van Hove, who is responsible for southern Europe at Zuora..

From acquisitiveness to a use mentality

Meanwhile this new model is also actually creating new needs. French electric car sharing service Autolib is designed for people who use a car regularly, but also has proven appeal for people who do not own a car and who do not usually travel by car. We’re seeing the end of the ‘I own therefore I am’ era, argues sociologist Laurence Allard, adding: “The very notion of ownership is being challenged. This concept, on which consumerism has been based since the first Ford cars rolled off the production line, is now being called into question.”  Allard believes that “we’re moving from an acquisitiveness mindset to one of use.” So far it has mainly been startups that have capitalised on this appetite for a new consumption model. However, given the success of startups such as Nest Labs, a company specialising in customised, on-demand home automation (thermostats, alarms, etc), some major firms are now thinking again and beginning to take an interest in these new consumption models.