2018 Product Trend: Consumers Are Tapping Into a Shared Economy

Posted by Sara, on January 11, 2018

The interest in less, but better, paired with advancements in technology has made it possible for us to connect to things as we need them, and, in some cases, only when we need them.

The Shift We See

In recent past, service-sharing solutions (think: Uber, Airbnb, Rent the Runway, and WeWork) provided quick ways to access high-quality products and experiences, and, in the interest of the minimalist movement, keep hold of these items for only a set period of time before transferring ownership. 

These types of solutions have begun rewiring how society views product ownership, how we interact with one another, and a current societal desire to move away from hoarding collections of clutter, preserving only our most favorite and necessary possessions. 

Services like ThredUp have built business models around trading in used clothes, connecting someone else with items we’ve grown tired of, and companies like Patagonia, who has been a leader in sustainable clothing, are looking at ways to create buy-back programs for those looking to upgrade pieces in their wardrobe. 

But the trend doesn’t stop with clothes and experiences, product manufacturers have taken note and solutions have begun rolling out to allow users to rent out and test new products, including Pley, which allows parents to rent the latest toys with a monthly subscription. Services like these can help product manufacturers gain critical feedback, as well as assist consumers in product research, identifying those items that are worth the investment to keep long-term.


As consumers look to both share goods and purchase less, companies are going to need to increasingly think outside of the traditional retail box to expand access to brand and product lines.

Designing for the widest range of possible users will become more important than ever before, as singular products become owned by multiple users that could range drastically in every possible way.

Tips to Tap Into the Trend

  • Prioritize user research early on in the product development process. Take the time to identify your widest range of target user types.
  • Through impactful design and engineering, look for ways to leverage material types that are built to last as they are passed from one user on to the next.
  • Help your target consumer research by offering trial versions of your product available for them to hold, test and try (à la WarbyParker) before making their final purchase decision.
  • In design, consider opportunities for future customization and personalization, so that as products are handed down they still feel personal.

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