In less than an hour’s time, you can hail a car via smartphone to transport you home from a day at a coworking space, time a takeout delivery to arrive shortly after you get there and eat it seated at a table that had been purchased from a stranger across town. Between bites of dinner, you can search for a house to rent on an upcoming vacation and secondhand tickets to a sold-out concert.
Doing these things would qualify you as a “super user” of digital sharing and on-demand services, and you'd be among 7 percent of Americans who fall into this category, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. Whether you are using all of the services at once or even regularly, a super user is anyone who has used more than six types of sharing or on-demand services, of a total of 11 types Pew identified.
Although it may surprise those who stereotype men as “early adopters” of new technologies, a greater proportion of sharing and on-demand service super users are women. Specifically, 62 percent of the surveyed super users are female, with 8 percent of all women surveyed and 5 percent of all men surveyed earning the label. That said, not all sharing and on-demand services are new, as Pew acknowledges. Craigslist, for example, was founded in 1995.
Super users are more likely to fall in the 18 to 29 age range, earn a household income of more than $75,000 and live in an urban area. The education gap is most pronounced: While 57 percent of super users report they have a college degree, only 26 percent of those who have used fewer than six sharing and on-demand services report the same.
Americans with higher levels of education, wealth and tech savvy make up the majority of participants in the digital economy, which has caused concern about increasing inequality. Twenty-eight percent of Americans have not used any of the 11 types of sharing and on-demand services. One demographic area in which the Pew researchers found no discrepancy between super users and less avid users was race: 64 percent of super users are white, compared with 66 percent of less intensive users.
In terms of the most widely used types of services, exactly 50 percent of American adults have purchased or used second-hand goods online, making this practice the most prevalent among the categories. Online rental services are the least popular digital sharing services, with only 2 percent of surveyed Americans having used them.
Entrepreneurs should see opportunity in these low rates of use of the sharing economy. There’s plenty of room in this market for new startups to capture and serve the interests of those who are not yet super users -- let alone users at all.