Experiencing access-based consumption - studying consumption experiences on access-based consumption via consumers of the Finnish clothing libraries

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Objectives of the study After the global economic crisis starting in 2008, we have seen a tremendous rise in the forms of commercial sharing systems. The specific phenomenon of access-based consumption has been defined to be apart of the larger collaborative consumption phenomenon, providing consumers temporary access to products (or services) against a fee, but without the change of ownership. Even though consumption experiences have been widely studied within the postmodern consumption culture landscape, the ways consumers experience access-based consumption has not been researched before. Therefore, the aim of this study is to broaden the understanding of access-based consumption by exploring how consumers experience the phenomenon. We live in a postmodern society, where the condition of our consumption world is paradoxical in nature (Scandalis et al., 2016). Therefore, it is important to understand if the consumption experiences of access-based consumption consist of these paradoxical experiences and how consumers are able to negotiate the tensions of these juxtapositions. Methodology This research is qualitative and interpretative in nature. The core of the research approach lies in existential-phenomenology, since the aim of the research is to understand these complex experiences as they are actually lived, experienced by consumers in their “life-world” (Thompson et al., 1989) and described by consumers in a first-person view. The data collection method used for this study was individual and qualitative, in-depth long interviews. Altogether seven informants were interviewed based on careful sampling, by choosing informants that are currently active members of a Finnish clothing library service. The analysis of the study followed the hermeneutic framework, because it provides a connection to phenomenological aspects of person-culture relationship. Findings Six different thematic findings were discovered. These discovered findings are paradoxical in nature and are paired together based on their paradoxicality towards each other. These discovered themes include utility versus play, dawning community versus individualistic treasure hunting and democratization of consumption versus anti-consumption as a status symbol. The study shows that experiences on access-based consumption can be as paradoxical as any other consumption experiences. These experiences are then negotiated in consumers’ minds. The underlying paradoxes on these themes then include utility versus hedonism, tribalism versus individualism and democratization of consumption versus anti-consumption. Consumers use different negotiation tactics in order to overcome the tensions these juxtapositions on experiences create. These negotiation tactics include using the accessed objects as agents or allowing these experiences to co-exist. Consumers then transfer from one experience to another based on the consumption situation.
Thesis advisor
Toyoki, Sammy
Tillotson, Jack
consumption experience, access-based consumption, collaborative consumption, postmodern consumer culture, experience paradox, clothing library