Hard Times for Box Movers: Consumption doesn’t have anything to do with Purchasing

Screen: Lily Melrose
A new start-up called byebuy provides its customers with smartphones, smartwatches, or drones for a rental fee. If customers don’t want to use the product any more, they can simply send it back. Access instead of possession.

Speaking of which, one thought that inevitably comes to my mind is how consumption, usage, and purchase processes increasingly separate from each other. In the past you had to buy an item in order to use it. What’s more, the aim was to actually make use of the product.

Nowadays this situation is far more complex: there’s a whole bunch of reasons why people buy something, actual usage only being one of them. A purchase contributes to mood management, self-promotion, affiliation to a class or group, positioning as a trendsetter. Consumption as such has become independent; it establishes its own cycles. This development has become commonplace in terms of money as monetary flows have already been autonomous for a while.

Buy to advertise

Fashion vloggers are one current example for this. They shop in a certain store or online and present their purchases in front of their cameras in so-called “hauls”. Basically, they advertise: they go shopping in order to upload a video promoting their purchases. Vloggers who do this successfully enough don’t have to spend their own time and money on shopping; companies provide them with their products. Actual use doesn’t play an important role here.

Consumption and usage have disengaged from each other. Unworn clothes are left in the closet and groceries are thrown in the bin untouched.

This doesn’t mean that consumption decreases, even if you don’t have to possess a product in order to use it. On the contrary, various new business models are developing: rental or freemium models and of course sharing economy.

Which value can box movers still create here?

Customers do consume after all, no matter if they buy, rent, or only talk about products. Transactions are becoming increasingly abstract – that’s another reason why traditional “box movers” are jeopardised. In a world where possession of products becomes less important market players that barely contribute to added value are endangered more than others.

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