Millennials' Perceived Values towards Access-based Consumption Experiences in Denmark: An Analysis of Swapfiets' Users from a Consumer Culture Theory Perspective

Silvia Jalón Baudet

Student thesis: Master thesis


The advent of the Sharing Economy and associated access-based consumption activities has been a key change in many Western countries’ economies over the last decade. This profound change in models of consumption has influenced the development of new business models like Product-Services-Systems (PSSs), exemplified by the Dutch bicycle leasing company Swapfiets. This paper has focused on the study of a specific segment of Swapfiets’ consumers: the Millennial generation, who show more familiarity with the Sharing Economy and have made access-based consumption activities part of their everyday lives. Through this thesis, the author has aimed to get insights into the values that motivate and are extracted from access-based consumption by Millennials residing in Denmark. Conclusively, this paper presents theoretical and practical implications which can be inferred from the research carried as part of this study.
The research question and sub-questions have been interrogated from a Consumer Culture Theory perspective by applying theories on self-identity construction and community feeling concerning the perceived values extracted by Millennials from access-based consumption and the use of PSSs. For that, a qualitative method has been followed where eight semi-structured in-depth interviews have been conducted. The data collected through the interviews has been analysed by applying an abductive approach in which theory and previous literature has been used in a deductive way alongside the exploration of new conceptual frameworks which characterise inductive methods.
Three main conclusions can be drawn from this analysis of the research. First, Millennials seem to base their decision to use PSSs on the functional and financial benefits they perceive they will get from choosing to use Swapfiets’ service. Second, once they experience access-based PSSs, there are hedonic and symbolic values extracted from the experience which help them develop their self-identity projects and feel part of the Danish cycling community. Third, those hedonic and symbolic meanings can boost Millennials’ empathy and openness towards future access-based consumption activities in other markets. Overall the demographic group studied were unconcerned about not owning a product; instead, they find other aspects of the experience, such as the service which comes together with accessing a product more important. Additionally, it is relevant to mention that these outcomes might vary depending on the type of product accessed.
The results of this study provide insights into the ways in which Millennials perceive access vs. owning and the ways in which they derive value from products without the necessity of ownership. Millennials have a markedly different understanding of and approach to what consumption means. They do not pay for a product; they pay for a service or an experience. These insights may be applied by existing and future companies operating in the field of access-based consumption to gain insights into Millennial consumers.
Finally, this study is based on explorative research focused on Millennials living in Denmark and using the bicycle leasing company Swapfiets. Thus, there are some limitations in terms of generalizability and transferability as the findings might be different when applied to other fields and segments. Therefore, it would be interesting to do further research regarding other markets and generations.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages134
SupervisorsMeike Janssen