Does Consumption Lead to Gratitude?
Monday is here and so are the latest updates from Questia Group This week’s study focuses on two different types of consumption: material and experiential. Our research was made through an online survey on www.questia.ro covering 1,084 respondents, with a plus or minus 3% margin of error. The survey was active between the 5th and the 7th of January 2017.
Our study has as starting point the Walker, Kumar and Gilovich’s study Cultivating Gratitude and Giving Through Experiential Consumption (2016). The researchers underline two types of consumption – material and experiential, arguing that they foster gratitude and giving differently. Material consumption is based on “buying for the sake of buying”, like clothes, jewelry, furniture etc., while experiential consumption is based on “buying for the sake of doing”, such as meals out, traveling, tickets to events.
Research shows that people tend to be more satisfied from experiential consumption than material. Yet some material products may enclose experiential traits – think of a bicycle or a video game. Presenting some products as encompassing experiential traits tends to make people enjoy them more and stay satisfied with them longer. We know this both at a personal level, as well as from the marketing and advertising industry. Experiences are more valued because they foster social connections more than material goods do, they contribute to one’s identity and sense of self, at the same time offering more overall benefits, such as a sense of gratitude.
To grasp these findings, we asked people what types of products and services they bought, over 100 RON. We chose this amount because we wanted to be able to include both material and experiential products. Data shows that most Romanians purchased material products such as clothes and shoes (36.8%), electronic devices (15.9%) and cosmetics/personal care products (8.2%). However, there were some (10%) who purchased experiential services such as holidays (5.5%), a meal at a restaurant (2.6%), or tickets to the cinema/theater/museum (1.1%). Some (8.5%) purchased food and beverage in general or for New Year’s Eve, or Christmas gifts such as toys etc.
We also asked when did people buy the product/service. The majority of respondents have made their purchase in the last week or two weeks ago (59.1%), more than two weeks ago or a month (26,3%) one to three months ago (10.8%) or even over three months ago (3.5%). With the holidays right around the corner, most people have bought something quite recently.
As for the amount, the majority said they spend between 100 and 300 RON (64.3%), over 500 RON (21.2%) and between 300 and 500 RON (14.5%).
Our results are similar to Walker, Kumar and Gilovich’s study in terms of gratitude. Having most respondents buying material products in a proportion of 65.5%, the sense of gratitude (thus associated with experiential purchases) was only 11%. People declared that their purchase made them feel rather happy (55,3%) and pleased (33,7%). We could say that the top three purchases might have both material and experiential - for instance, clothes/shoes and cosmetics/personal care products can contribute to one’s sense of self, as well as electronic devices as already mentioned before. However, most people associated their purchase with the idea that it made them happy.
Thus, different types of consumption can lead to different types of feelings. By promoting greater feelings of gratitude, we are more likely to foster prosocial behavior. The feeling of connection with others who made similar experiential purchases makes people more inclined to act altruistically (see Kumar et al., 2016). More experimental studies like Walker, Kumar and Gilovich’s might lead to interesting and insightful data on consumer behaviors and much more. One interesting example in their study is that customers expressed more gratitude on websites devoted to experiences (such as TripAdvisor) than on websites devoted to material goods (like Amazon).
Don’t miss Questia’s studies in the following weeks. Find out more about consumer behavior, attitudes and beliefs in regard to numerous topics, from banking to consumer goods, the internet, leisure, marketing and retail in real time.
 See also: Caprariello & Reis, 2013; Carter & Gilovich, 2010, 2012; Howell & Hill, 2009; Kumar & Gilovich, 2015, 2016; Kumar, Killingsworth, & Gilovich, 2014, 2016; Nicolao, Irwin, & Goodman, 2009; Pchelin & Howell, 2014; Van Boven & Gilovich, 2003 in Walker, Kumar and Gilovich, 2016, p. 2.
 Gilovich & Kumar, 2015, and Gilovich, Kumar, & Jampol, 2015.
 Chan & Mogilner, 2016; Howell & Hill, 2009; Kumar & Gilovich, 2015; Kumar, Mann, & Gilovich, 2016; Van Boven, Campbell, & Gilovich, 2010.
 Carter & Gilovich, 2012; Kumar et al., 2016.
 Walker, Kumar and Gilovich, 2016 p.3.