The End of Ownership: How Generations Across the U.S. Really Feel About The Subscription Economy

June 3, 2019

Consumer preferences toward ownership are changing. While many of us grew up under the idea that more “stuff” (think cars, movie and music collections, etc.) equates to more success, this is no longer the case. In addition to long-term cost-savings, consumers like you and me crave convenience and simplicity – the freedom to enjoy experiences rather than owning and maintaining a physical product.

In fact, our new End of Ownership Report points to a new future: materialism as we know it is coming to an end.

We partnered with Harris Poll to conduct an online survey among 2,000+ U.S. adults ages 18+ exploring consumer (and generational) preferences towards usership versus ownership – the idea of subscribing to access to products, services or content rather than physically owning them. The survey is a country-specific deep dive into our previous online study of 13,000+ adults across 12 countries.

According to our report, more than half of U.S. adults (57%) want to “own less stuff,” and 80% agree that how much “stuff” a person owns is no longer a good measure of success.

This shift away from ownership toward usership could be driving the rise of what we refer to as the Subscription Economy. In fact, approximately 79% of U.S. adults have a subscription service right now and 76% believe that in the future, people will subscribe to more services and own fewer physical goods.

This is evident throughout our daily lives in a number of industries – for example, subscribing to a streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video) instead of buying DVDs, using car-sharing services (Uber, Lyft) instead of owning a car, and subscribing to software services (Google, Microsoft) to access tools without purchasing boxed software.

While a preference for usership is clear across the U.S., motivations for subscribing vary among different generations. However, convenience (50%), cost-savings (41%) and having flexibility and freedom in products and services used (58%) top the list across the board. Download our report for a full breakdown across generations and key persona profiles including parents, renters and Midwesterners.

It’s clear that the Subscription Economy is alive and well in the U.S. Any organization not making the effort to understand and iterate with their customers risks being left behind their competition – after all, it’s adapt or die in today’s digital world.