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What really makes customers happy? | The powerful force at work on your customers

There is a powerful force at work on every one of the customers you target and just understanding it can increase your margins, increase your revenue, generate more leads and build a bigger business. What is this mysterious force and what does it do? 

When is the last time you went on vacation?

Just think about that for a second and I want you to think about, when were you happiest? Were you happiest before you left for vacation, while you were on vacation or after you returned from vacation?

This sounds like a silly question, of course you were happiest while you were on vacation. Well, maybe not.

A few years ago, a group of Dutch researchers got together to answer this question, and what they found points at the force that drives our entire consumer culture. It turns out, we are happiest for up to eight weeks before we go on vacation. Yes, you heard that right, eight weeks.

Now why would this be? How could a traveler be more happy before they leave for vacation than while they're on vacation?

Let's break down what happens.

Imagine there is a powerful force at work on every one of the customers you target and just understanding it can increase your margins, increase your revenue, generate more leads and build a bigger business.

What is this mysterious force and what does it do?

Imagine you live in Kingston, Ontario (where the video was shot 👆). It's very cold and the fresh water is frozen, so you plan a vacation to a tropical location. You booked your plane tickets to a place that looks beautiful and reserved a room with an amazing view, and you're imagining yourself relaxing on the beach with a drink.

You're so happy and excited about your vacation, a 10 on the happiness scale.

Then you check into your hotel room and it looks a little less like what you imagined. And same for the view... and your drink.

Now, don't get me wrong, you're happy but you're not as happy as you were when you were imagining the vacation of your dreams... now you're more like an eight on the happiness scale and that, my Loyalty Loop friends, is exactly why on average, we're happier before we go on vacation, than while we're on vacation itself.

Hedonic Decline

There's actually a fancy psychological term for this, it's called Hedonic Decline. And basically Hedonic Decline can be summed up as this:

"Wanting is better than having."

In retail psychology they actually call this the satisfaction of browsing. So why is this so important to marketers?

Well, remember last week we talked about how quickly a consumers happiness fades after their purchase? We talked about that new car smell and how it doesn't last that long. Remember how they get right back on the treadmill, the Hedonic treadmill, to find the next thing that will make them happy?

Now, we know why they hop back on that treadmill. Because it's not the thing itself that makes the consumer happy.

So what is it exactly that brings a consumer joy?

Well, it's the search. The chase itself is what makes you happy. Today's consumers are constantly chasing rainbows, or coconut drinks with fancy umbrella garnishes to continue the metaphor.

In fact the act of wanting something makes you happier than the item itself. That's right, wanting is better than having. Just like that vacation that you're dreaming about, if you ask a consumer to predict how happy a future purchase will make them, they'll tell you how much joy, excitement, peace and pleasure this new item is actually going to bring, and they even predict it will improve their relationships and boost their self esteem.

But ask them after the purchase and it doesn't measure up. That happiness fades and it actually leaves them wanting more.

Now to be clear, this isn't buyers remorse. They don't regret the purchase itself, they just believe the next purchase will make them happier.

So what can we do about Hedonic Decline? How can we keep our customers happier for longer?

We're going to dive into that next week on The Loyalty Loop, but in the meantime, here's something to consider.

If wanting your product or service is more satisfying to your customer than actually acquiring it, what is it that we actually sell?

We sell an experience

Maybe we don't sell products or services, we sell an experience. People get more satisfaction and happiness out of being part of something bigger. Being part of an experience. It has to be more than just a transaction. Experiences are more satisfying than buying something.

In fact, it's been proven that even a bad experience makes people happier than the act of buying something.

So instead of relying solely on the quality or features and functions or benefits of the products and services you sell, maybe it's time we start crafting an unforgettable experience.

An experience that combats the Hedonic Decline and embraces the search itself, just as much as the purchase. 

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