Transacting with Strangers in a Digital World

Jie Shen, Alan J. Malter, Aric Rindfleisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a brief but ambitious Journal of Macromarketing commentary, Lusch (2017) offered a set of observations about the “evolution of economic exchange systems.” His first observation states that over the past 40,000 years, humans have routinely engaged in “exchange with strangers.” Our research complements Lusch’s retrospective commentary by taking a prospective look at how the digital revolution alters the degree to which humans transact with strangers. We specifically focus on the recent emergence of the sharing economy by theoretically and empirically examining how closely this new form of economic exchange conforms with Lusch’s observation. We conclude that, despite its promise of bridging divides between friends and strangers, our new digital world is still replete with transactions with strangers, and may be more similar to our old world than commonly recognized. Thus, transacting with strangers appears to be endemic to not just our past but also our future. We discuss the implications of transacting with strangers in a digital world for the future of macromarketing thought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-84
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Macromarketing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • economic exchange
  • exchange relationship
  • exchange transaction
  • familiar stranger
  • friends and strangers
  • sharing economy
  • social exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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