The sharing economy provides short-term access to products without the risks associated with ownership. While extant research primarily examined it in the context of affluent consumer segments, the sharing economy may offer opportunities for consumers at the base of the economic pyramid, where ownership risks prevent access to products that could create societal benefits. Drawing from risk perception theory, we examine how access-based services, as an alternative to ownership, can mitigate perceived risk dimensions. An experimental study reveals that, in contrast to consumers with higher income, low-income consumers perceive access-based services to entail less financial risk, resulting in a greater inclination to access a good than to own it. In a second study, we explore these differences by comparing access with a risk mitigation strategy. We find that at the base of the pyramid, access is perceived to entail less financial risk than both ownership and ownership with a warranty. The results indicate the importance of the sharing economy for addressing the limited availability of resources for alleviating poverty. Based on our findings, we derive implications for consumers and service providers at the base of the pyramid, and discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic may be detrimental to the identified opportunities.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 13 July 2021.
- Access-based services
- Base of the pyramid
- Risk perception theory
- Sharing economy