2015 seems to be the year of sharing economy. The Times says so, Wired says so, many others say so…
Even though leading tech companies such as Airbnb and Uber have been around for some years now, everything seems to indicate that 2015 will mark the future for these realities in our country.
What is Sharing Economy?
Sharing, sharing and sharing. You share everything, from bicycles, to homes, to cars; and you share them with everyone, but most of all strangers, that travel in the city or abroad. Let’s ask, however, where this desire to share was born.
To book a hotel, wouldn’t you use one of the many online booking giants? To rent a car was an agency not enough? Was the price (not always convenient) the only element that facilitated the development and boom of this philosophy? Are we really – during a crisis like ours is easy to say yes – so tied to discounts and the possibility of paying less? Is there more to it?
The lower cost is certainly the element that made sharing economy flourish. Taking a ride with Uber at a lower cost than a taxi is a tempting thing for everyone, as well as booking a room with Airbnb and paying far less than with classic online bookers. Savings make everyone happy, this is undeniable. But if it was only the low prices incentivizing us to use these technologies, then companies such as Amazon or EBay would have made all the shops in our cities shut down, and would’ve reached market shares close to 100%, which has not happened. It’s subject to digital divide, digital education, culture, or habit; but it is undeniable that even millions of people prefer the home-based store to online savings.
Uber and Airbnb are based on something more than a simple discount. Perhaps they allow us to feel intelligent, strong and smart because we have been able to find the best offer – using new technology- that our friends still do not know about. Perhaps the idea of having tried – and above all to be able to tell – an experience that others still do not know, drives us, more than the price, to try, test, and immerse ourselves in global sharing.
We decided to consider the data from December 2014, the Christmas holiday period, and to examine two very famous examples of sharing economy such as Uber and Airbnb to understand how Italians are inclined to use these services . Uber and Airbnb are two companies that are rapidly climbing the rankings of the major players in their respective fields and, in recent months, have imposed themselves in Italy. What do Italians think?
Airbnb and Uber, online volumes
Analyzing conversation volumes, we notice Uber collects more online content than Airbnb. We should remembered that a large part of the conversations reported to Uber come from the news sites, with great emphasis in taxi drivers protests and the initiatives of different national governments against the boom of this company. Airbnb has not encountered so much controversy, this is reflected in a lesser content presence, but this is not necessarily equivalent to a worst reputation on the network.
Uber’s online presence
Uber has a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter, accounting for about 70% of the total volume thanks to users who share their trip – as well as the driver – with their contacts; creating content articles for others to share and like. We find blogs and news sites in smaller volumes, they publish articles weighing in government or authority actions that fight or ban Uber from their territory. There is no news on the protests of taxi drivers who, around the world, seem to have been organized against Uber.
The online presence of Airbnb
Content on Airbnb is mainly based on Facebook thanks to the official page that brings in almost half of the contents and interactions. Instagram is next, with a lot of users who post photos of the accomodations; and Twitter, with scattered tweets of users around Italy. Blogs and news sites have a smaller percentage and do not talk about particular issues other than general articles on sharing economics and description of Airbnb services.
Regardless of where and how much we talk about stuff, what really matters is how it is talked about. A sentiment economy or, to quote Joshua Klein a reputation economy. We know it well, comments and review are worth more than a thousand press releases and TV commercials. We have witnessed it from realities like EBay, Amazon and Tripadvisor.
Uber’s sentiment data shows a neutral nature, without judgment against the company. Such content is represented by articles, comments or posts where Uber is spoken about without criticism or praise. Negative sentiment is a different matter, it represents the mood of users and content creators that share online comments about society being downplayed in diverse ways (taxi drivers, governments, trade associations, etc.). Positive content, albeit lower than negative, is still present thanks to several users who are enthusiastic about the service after trying it.
Airbnb’s sentiment presents a very similar situation to Uber, with a strong presence of neutral content on various online platforms. However, we find that positivitie comments are greater than negative ones, a factor that can be explained by both the good service performance and the lower media exposure to criticisms and conflicts that Airbnb has seen in recent months.
Italians and Sharing economy
Do Italians trust sharing economy? They certainly use this type of service, especially in big cities and, all in all, seem to be relatively satisfied with its performance. News have certainly stirred the discussion, especially around Uber, but users still seem to appreciate the opportunities offered by sharing economy platforms. Airbnb seems to enjoy more a more positive than Uber, but it should be remembered that it did not have to face a -practically global category-like- revolt such as that of Uber.