Why are experiences more valuable than possessions?

Seeking out experiences rather than purchasing more stuff has been a trend lurking in the corners of psychology for the last few years.

Research in 2014 by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor from the University of Cornell, concluding that “experiences are the glue of our social lives”, mattering much more than the latest i-gadget.

Why do experiences matter?

  • Experiential purchases enhance social relations more readily and effectively than material goods
  • Experiential purchases form a bigger part of a person’s identity
  • Experiential purchases are evaluated more on their own terms and evoke fewer social comparisons than material purchases.

Studies also suggest that the anticipation of an experience is also crucial. Thomas Gilovich’s research showed that people reported being mostly frustrated before the planned purchase of a ‘thing’, but mostly happy before they bought an ‘experience’.

As that happy feeling is tied up with a memory, it lingers longer. Colin Strong, head of behavioural science at market research group Ispos, calls it the ‘hedonic adaption’, claiming that the hedonic payoff of experiences is much greater than material purchases.

The Experience Consumer

We are now seeing how this trend is affecting our spending habits and the way we consume, such as a 55% increase in ticket sales to events and live experiences, as research by the world’s largest event technology platform, Eventbrite, found.

And according to Barclaycard, which processes about half of all Britain’s credit and debit card transactions, their figures for April 17 show a 20% increase in spending in pubs compared with the same month last year. Spending in restaurants went up 16%, while theatres and cinemas enjoyed a 13% rise. Meanwhile, department stores suffered a 1% drop, vehicle sales were down 11% and spending on household appliances fell by 2.5%

Clothes retailer Next claim their first fall in profits in eight years is due to the experience economy, and Ikea’s head of sustainability, Steve Howard, is of the opinion that consumption of many goods has reached a limit, referring to this limit as hitting ‘peak stuff’

Building a Brand Experience

Fuelled by social media, the experience economy is a trend that will continue to grow. Instagram accounts used to be about our new car, handbag or pair of shoes, but now that seems slightly vulgar compared to our friend’s yoga holiday or sky-diving weekend.

Building a product brand that taps into the experience economy involves going beyond a ‘sell and forget’ mentality. When Meile launched their revolutionary steam oven, they also developed a set of cookery courses for their steam oven customers. After completing a hands-on steam oven cookery session, attendees proudly tweet, instagram and facebook the results to all their contacts, turning them into a very effective sales force for Meile, without even a mention of a Meile product.

 

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