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An important ambiguity in the sharing economy literature concerns the role of product variety. Do physical product characteristics provide scope for differentiation in a sharing economy context, and if so, under which circumstances? Resolving this ambiguity is important as it can have large operational and strategic implications for sharing economy businesses. We use discrete choice modeling on a unique carsharing dataset and behavioral online experiments to study how users select between product options of varying quality and brand in a shared consumption context. We find that, in general, there is a trend towards utilitarian access-based consumption in which product characteristics and product brand matter less. However, we observe that hedonistic use cases tend to shift preferences significantly toward more premium products. Our results highlight the need for a more nuanced consideration of product differentiation in sharing economy research.



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