With Australia Post in the news over price hikes of up to 30% for pre-paid parcels, competitor Toll has announced its trial rollout of TZ locker technology. Consumers simply rent the automated lockers in anticipation of a parcel delivery and pick it up from a 24 hour localised pick up point. While this innovation is an evolution of the almost ancient concept of a PO box, it got us into a discussion about the broader trend it is part of and what this says about our changing society.
Once upon a time it was standard practice for a young adult to get a job, buckle down and save their pennies in order to buy a house and things to fill it with. But this trajectory may be on the wane.
Things seem to be gradually giving way to the services things offer. Lately we’re seeing the emergence of a number of innovative short-term rental/usage concepts whose success indicates that for some Australians it is no longer appealing or necessary to commit to fully purchasing something to enjoy its benefits, or to have that something to hand all the time. The service comes before the product.
Spotify is the pioneering commercial music streaming service that has been described as the saviour of the moribund music industry. Spotify offers users access to almost every piece of recorded music for a modest monthly service fee. Essentially this negates the need to purchase or own music; users are simply borrowing the music they want, as required.
GoGet is one of a handful of car share services launched in Australia that claim to be more convenient than car-rental and cheaper than car ownership. Members can book a car online, take a short walk to the nearest GoGet rental car, unlock it using a smart card and return it to the same spot when finished. No vehicle registration, no insurance, no repairs, no saving or commitment. To add to this in recent years
Melbourne has embraced the bike-sharing trend occurring in over 200 cities in 33 countries. The idea is much the same as GoGet, with two wheels.
So what’s driving this shift towards services rather than products? Is it an affordability issue? Not really. According to a report released last year by NATSEM, the cost of living isn’t increasing as rapidly as many would have us believe. Australians are experiencing financial stress due to greater discretionary spending and consequent expectations. We think this ‘service over product’ shift is about something bigger and more significant - services such as these offer lifestyle without encumbrance; they mitigate the rising cost of lifestyle, cater to an attitude of entitlement present amongst some, and talk to the new narrative that sees young Australians less willing to set aside part of their weekly wage to purchase a car, bike or LP. A service doesn’t deteriorate like a consumer durable, and disappears as soon as you’ve finished using it. It’s all the wheat and no chaff.
So what’s next? Could this trend, coupled with some quirky Japanese inventiveness, be the answer to Sydney’s housing shortage?