Is access the new way of living in 2021?


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Is access the new way of living in 2021?

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Access to limitless living in your hands. Artwork by Kevin Craft.

Who remembers the thrill of unboxing a new record album, the sound of unwrapping a crisp new dress from its packaging, and the smell of new leather car seats? Each one stood for the joy of possession, and the sense of satisfaction of finally having the item in my hands. 

But my typical day looks something like this:
  • I leave my house at 8:30 a.m. and head to work. On most days the alarm blast misses my ears, so I’ll have no choice but to pull up Grab and book my ride to the office. 
  • 30 minutes later I’m at my office, a co-working startup cluster known as LaunchPad that is primed to be Singapore’s very own Silicon Valley. My company pays a monthly fee to access a cozy space that we can call our own, but also access to shared spaces where we get to meet up with other startups and exchange knowledge, ideas and connections over coffee that we’ve subscribed to.
  • At the end of the weekly grind, we’ll usually unwind with some Netflix and drinks before heading home. That's the fun with startups!

As much as I've always seeked the satisfaction of finally owning what is it that I coveted, I’m already knee deep in access: from tangible things like cars and working spaces to the intangibles, like movies and songs. 

No longer defined as simply having the means to get hold of something, access today is the new apparatus that is changing the way we can get what we want. This new concept of access has accelerated the rise of the subscription economy. 

Hear from the experts
According to consulting giant McKinsey, the subscription economy can be streamlined into 3 sectors:
  1. Replenishment
    Replenishment subscriptions cater to the automation of low-involvement purchases, mainly for everyday necessities such as coffee, razors and even underwear. Or toilet paper to help you avoid the Covid-catalysed grocery frenzy.

  2. Curation
    Curation subscriptions play into the rising demand for treats in small quantities curated by experts. Trending examples include home-grown high-end apparel and vitamin subscription Style Theory and POP.

  3. Access
    Access subscriptions allow users to access a product without any long-term commitment. This form of subscription is most relevant to technology, ranging from music and movie streaming to car leasing to software-as-a-service (SaaS) like Adobe, Microsoft, iCloud and GSuite. 

As technology advances, there is an increase in the costs of acquiring and maintaining the product over time. Tech products often require regular (and annoying) updates – how many times have you updated your phone only to have 10 other applications screaming for updates right after? But access boosts the support and upkeep that up-to-date softwares and services necessitate. It keeps steadily changing operating systems in check. 

A healthy obsession with access
Sharpened by technology and modern demands, access influences not just the purchase of big ticket items like cars and houses but also everyday decisions. 

Access as we know it today is not a new kid on the block. Rather than a fad, the concept of access over ownership has emerged organically from decades ago since the days of newspaper subscriptions. These days, ride-hailing companies like Grab, BMW’s latest venture in car access or our daily dose of Netflix and Spotify are biting into our long-held belief with how we are used to getting what we want: ownership.

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Access, or the sharing economy, is changing our beliefs on ownership. Artwork by Anton Fritsler.

Ownership is no longer the ultimate expression of our consumption desire. As our concepts of status and personal fulfillment are rapidly shifting away from owning things, we are increasingly favouring engaging experiences. 

We are beginning to realise that we don't have to own things to use things. We don't have to be owners to be users. 

We do not want products for their own sake, but as a means that provide desired outcomes. Access subscriptions are hence not the conventional die-cut product and value exchange, but rather a platform for a relationship that generates mutual value. It appeases our modern tastes for versatility and transparency in allowing companies to co-create an experience with us.

What is your path in access?
The sky’s the limit, really. You can now share a dog – joint custody, not rent or babysit. Those itching to have a pet but cannot afford the time or money involved can “co-love” one together for half the responsibility. 

While still a largely unexplored concept in our region, access is emerging as the tool that gives us the carte blanche to design how we want to live. Whether you’re an influencer craving for Instagram worthy staycations or just looking to go from Jurong to Jewel, Airbnb and BlueSG is ready to provide the access you want. 

The added value of access is multidimensional. Apart from convenience – an essential in our fast-paced society – access also indirectly brings about a reduction in upfront costs, the ability to get the latest model and the flexibility to upgrade. It’s the new sweet spot for all of us who instead of hoping for instant, now expect instant. 

Today, access as a means to obtain our needs or as a form of subscription has silently weaved itself into our lives. It fulfils our modern expectations whether in terms of convenience, connectivity or versatility. Car sharing has made cities friendlier. iCloud has saved you the burden of backing up your phone. Clothing subscriptions have remedied your morning outfit changes. Already a robust wing in the US and Euro markets, a culture of access is poised to be the new way of living to manage everyday needs. 

VIO Singapore is a home-grown start-up that offers a new way for consumers to get access to smart living with low upfront cost and commitment. #Experiencethedifference with us.