Consumption Experiences

Consumption Experiences

Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7518-6.ch002
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Understanding consumption experiences becomes increasingly important as competition intensifies and goods and services become more and more commoditized. Emotions, which aid in the formation of deep emotional bonds between consumers and products and increase consumer loyalty, represent a central feature of consumption experiences. This chapter addresses three types of consumption experiences—cross border, counterfeits, and sport—to show how extraordinary experiences build deep emotional connections with consumers. Understanding consumption experiences is of the utmost importance for marketers, because such an understanding can help them to design engaging and memorable products and services that consumers will want to enjoy time and time again. Consumption experiences are also a medium through which to understand human needs, values, and behaviors, as well as how consumers construct narratives that explain the way they live these experiences.
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An airport is likely to be one of the least favorite places of many consumers all around the world. Long lines, security screenings, loud announcements, exorbitant prices, few entertainment choices, and even fewer places to rest or work cause most passengers to wish they could avoid airports altogether. However, this is not the case at Singapore’s Changi International Airport, which is consistently rated as one of the best airports in the world and a favorite of international travelers. With a rooftop swimming pool, free foot massages, specially designed nap chairs, free movie theaters, TV lounges, a 40-foot swirling slide, five gardens including a live butterfly garden and an indoor waterfall, and a huge number of stores, it is more like an amusement park than an airport (“At Changi”, 2014). Furthermore, it is not only the facilities that set the Changi airport experience apart from others. While clearing immigration, customs and security at most airports is a nightmare that passengers dread, Changi International Airport has been able to transform the experience into a pleasant one. Passport control agents receive international passengers with a smile and offer lollipops while completing passport checks. Security lines are short and move rapidly, and security officials are friendly and polite and even apologize to passengers for the inconvenience (Freedman, 2011).

In addition to Changi International Airport, many other firms and organizations have made creating a superior consumption experiences for consumers a priority. As competition increases and goods and services become increasingly commoditized, more firms are trying to understand the consumption experiences of consumers. Bernard Schmitt, a pioneer in the areas of experiential marketing and customer experience management, defines experience as “private events that occur in response to some stimulation (e.g., as provided by marketing efforts before and after purchase). Experiences result from direct observation and/or participation in events – whether they are real, dreamlike or virtual” (Schmitt, 1999, p. 60). The customer experience is subjective and personal and involves consumer’s cognitive, emotional, social and physical responses (Verhoef et al., 2009). It is also holistic, involving every aspect of the firm’s offering (Meyer & Schwager, 2007). These experiences occur directly through purchase, use and service; most of the time they are encounters initiated by the consumer. Verhoef et al. (2009) argue that the customer experience is determined by elements both within and outside the firm’s control, including the social environment (e.g., reference groups, service personnel), the service interface (e.g., service encounter), atmosphere (e.g., scents, temperature, music, and design), product assortment (e.g., variety, uniqueness), price, brand, and previous experience. It is also important to note that the consumption experience involves the total experience, including the search, purchase, consumption, and post-purchase evaluations. For example, when BMW introduced the X3 crossover, it installed webcams on the production line, so that customers could watch their cars being assembled. In this way, BMW was able to enhance and personalize the consumer experience even before customers actually received their vehicles.

Consumers always have an experience when consuming products and services, and this experience can be good or bad. According to Pine & Gilmore (1998), the best consumption experiences are those that engage consumers in a unique, memorable way. These authors propose four broad categories of experiences – entertainment, educational, aesthetic, and escapist – based on the level of consumer participation (passive or active) and consumer connection to the context during the experience (simply absorbing everything around them or immersed in the event). According to these authors, the richest experiences are those that hit the “sweet spot” that encompasses elements of all four categories. For example, consumers visiting the Vancouver Aquarium can watch the beautiful exhibits showing diverse marine life (aesthetic), learn more about sea creatures (educational), enjoy the penguin show (entertainment), and even participate in a full, interactive training session with beluga whales alongside whale trainers (escapist).

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