Transumerism: What Does It Mean For Your Business?
Are you in the business of selling handbags, electronics, books, furniture, clothes, or maybe even art? If your organization offers any of these types of products or nearly any other consumer good or service, an evolving trend known as “transumerism” may be making an impact on your industry and could affect the way you approach your market.
Originally transumerism was a term applied to the purchase habits of consumers in transition – in other words, travelers and their purchasing behaviors in airports, hotels, etc. However, over time, non-travelers have also begun adopting transumer tendencies as society continually becomes increasingly experience and pleasure driven. Individuals are more inclined to prefer to rent, lease, or perhaps even share ownership of products and services, finding that these temporary possessions impose fewer constraints and offer greater opportunities for extravagance.
For example, transumers do not have to deal with typical maintenance or repair issues since they are simply borrowing and returning. Transumers can also keep up with the latest trends much more easily because rentals can be traded-up for and/or replaced by the newest technology, style, etc. For those on a limited budget, leasing offers the ability to indulge in multiple luxuries, rather than investing in only one or two expensive items, while high-end transumers can show off an ever more opulent lifestyle through fractional ownership.
The transumers’ “leasing lifestyle” (Trendwatching, 2006) began expanding far beyond movie rentals and timeshare ownerships some time ago, however the recent economic downturn seems to have further enhanced the movement. More people are finding themselves unable to afford indulgences – they either cannot buy those expensive brand name products/status enhancing services or they cannot replace current possessions with the newest hot item on the market (e.g. technology).
Many providers have cropped up to cater to the transumer segment of society, offering everything from fashion items to vehicles to cell phones to power tools. Avelle (which was initially a designer handbag rental company known as Bag, Borrow, and Steal) gained notoriety in 2008’s “Sex and the City: The Movie” and has expanded beyond Louis Vuitton and Chanel purses to various other luxury accessories (e.g. jewelry, watches, sunglasses). Fractional Life (a UK firm) specializes in serving the ultra high-end transumer, offering shared ownerships of helicopters, racehorses, vineyards, and sports teams, to name just a few.
Transumerism has been adapted for various “green” efforts as well, underscoring yet another benefit of the leasing lifestyle – fewer products, more re-use, and more sharing, i.e. less waste. Freecycle offers members all over the world a way to trade goods and thereby reduce the volume of trash being sent to landfills. Zipcar is a car-sharing service available in Phoenix (as well as over 50 other cities in North America and the UK) and across various college campuses, including Arizona State University. A study found that “every carshare vehicle on the road replaces seven to eight owned vehicles, due to people selling their cars or deciding against buying a second or third vehicle” (Trendwatching, 2006) therefore car-sharing is certainly an environmentally friendly approach. Here in Tucson, the City offers its employees a bicycle sharing program (City Cycle). Employees are encouraged to use the bicycles (which are available at several Downtown area locations) to travel to appointments, meetings, etc.
Although the transumer culture has gained momentum with the recent economic downturn and the growth in environmental awareness, experts believe this trend will persist even after the economy recovers “because it is [also] about collecting the experiences and the stories” (Alexandra Aguirre Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Florida International University). Some consumers will continue to seek transient luxuries and pleasures because they are happy to trade the limitations of ownership for the excitement of constant newness.
As we move forward, it will be important to then think about our own products and service offerings. Do we sell something that might be more appealing as a rental or shared-ownership item? Is there a way we can adapt our processes to meet the needs of the transumer segment of society? Although not everyone will become a transumer, there does seem to be a sizeable proportion that might adopt the leasing lifestyle at least in a limited manner, therefore being aware of this market force may prove valuable.
– Article courtesy of Marketing Intelligence
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