The sharing economy is more than a way of cutting prices and letting the outsiders in to plague the formerly secure fortunes of big corporations. It can have a big effect on how consumers think about undertakings that goes far beyond where to book a ride or a room.

According to a new study from researchers at the Carson College of Business, Washington State University Vancouver and the University of Eastern Finland, who looked at users of peer-to-peer lodging systems like Airbnb, users changed how often they went on trips, how long those trips lasted, and where they chose to visit.

Authors Iis P. Tussyadiah and Juho Pesonen undertook two surveys, one of U.S. travelers and the other of travelers in Finland. The groups skewed young, more male, educated, with incomes largely between $20,000 and $60,000 a year. The change in business model of the peer-to-peer room providers, and the drop in price of accommodations, brought forth the following responses:

  • A total of 67.2 percent said that they agreed or strongly agreed that peer-to-peer accommodations expanded their selection of places to visit. U.S. travelers and women were more likely to agree. Age, education level, income, and use of peer-to-peer accommodation didn't have a significant impact.
  • Agreeing that their frequency of travel increased was 30 percent who agreed and 11 percent who strongly agreed. U.S. travelers were more likely to expect more frequent travel. Gender, age, levels of education, income, and use of peer-to-peer accommodation didn't matter.
  • About 41 percent said that the peer-to-peer accommodations would expand how long their trips would last. Once again, U.S. participants were more likely to extend their stays. Once again, gender, age, levels of education, income, and use of peer-to-peer accommodation didn't matter.
  • There was also an effect not just on how someone traveled, but what they did at the destination. About 53 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they increased their range of activity.

It makes sense. The more expensive travel is, the more frequently people have to constrain how often and where they go as well as how long they stay. And if you're around local people, chances are you'll hear about things you wouldn't have as a regular tourist and might be introduced to new experiences.

But it also reminds entrepreneurs of something important: What you do can change people's lives. Even lowering the price of something can affect how people relate and react to it and open new possibilities. Yes, there's probably a little "Kumbaya/we're changing things" moment in there. However, there are also some practical considerations. The new relationship might open doors to additional product or service lines, like an Airbnb for local tours of areas. You might entice people to move outside of their usual comfort zones a bit and diversify your lines of business. There could be additional marketing channels you might consider. When you change the world of your customer, even in a small way, you change the possibilities of your business.