Peerby.com – Get to know your neighbors!
Imagine this. You are hosting a dinner party for all your friends and you have decided to cook the meal yourself. Since you have invited many people, you need the appropriate cooking gear to make this party a success. However, in case you are a student like me, it is not very likely that you own a cooking pan large enough to cook tomato soup for 20 people. The stores are closed, your parents are out of town, and none of your friends own a pan of the dimensions your feast requires.
Peerby.com offers a solution for people with exactly these kinds of problems. They established an alternative to the prevailing consumption patterns in which people use goods after which it is stored or thrown away by developing a platform on which people can request to borrow things from their neighbors. In this way Peerby hopes to realize objectives such as “connecting people with each other and encouraging collaborative consumption.” [i] In essence, collaborative consumption allows individuals to become active members of society and increase their social network.[ii] Peerby does this by offering a platform that introduces a new value-creating system, allowing customers to govern the flow of goods in their own consumption context. [iii]
A question remaining is why people are committed to the online community that Peerby creates. Previous literature on organizational commitment has shown that people can develop a connection to an online community that is based on obligation, affect, and/or need. [iv] Whereas Bateman, Gray and Butler (2011) have tested the effect of these types of commitment on behaviors associated with discussion-based communities, I argue that these can also be applied to how Peerby’s online sharing community induces individual’s membership. Clearly, people interact on this platform because other members have something they need. Furthermore, affective commitment to Peerby’s community can be found in people’s enthusiasm to share the community with potential new members, which is of primary importance to Peerby’s sustainability. Affective commitment is seen in the following post by one of Peerby’s current members: “yesterday I could borrow two books within half an hour. I want all my neighbours to know!”[v] The last type of commitment, which is obligation-based commitment, is less evident in its current business model. However, since Peerby is committed to contributing to the environment by inducing people to reuse other people’s goods [i] [vi], it could be argued that people who want to live as environmentally-friendly as possible might feel obliged to become a member of this community.
A last interesting note about Peerby is that, although I have mentioned the words ‘business model’ earlier, its founder Weddepohl claims that Peerby was not formed according to a well-structured business plan but is rather the result of a mere idea that he tried out. [vi] In this case, trial-and-error does not seem to apply since Peerby has growing numbers of users and is currently expanding its ‘neighborhood’ across international
[ii] Gheitasy, A. (n.a.). Online collaborative consumption: A multi-cultural study of sociotechnical gaps, social capital & collaborative patterns. PhD project at University of West London.
[iii] Saarijärvi, H., Kannan, P. K., & Kuusela, H. (2013). Value co-creation: Theoretical approaches and practical implications. European Business Review, 24(1), pp. 6-19.
[iv] Bateman, P. J., Gray, P. H., & Butler, B. S. (2011). The impact of community commitment on participation in online communities. Information Systems Research, 22(4), pp. 841-854.