Anticipation is Better than Reality

00369_00213When it comes to vacations, when are you happiest?

-One month before you leave

-Three days into the trip

-As soon as you return

According to research out of the Netherlands published in the Applied Research in Quality of Life, sadly, we are happiest when we are planning the vacation. In fact, when we return, we are no more happy than the non-vacationer. That’s right, the anticipation of a vacation is better than the reality of being on the vacation.

Logic tells me that this doesn’t just apply to vacationers. Expectations are almost always bigger than reality – the bigger the reward, the more likely this is to be the case. Dopamine is hard at work. Dopamine is the chemical released in our brain in anticipation of reward. It drives us to chase the reward – more often and with greater force.

Buying anything that we’ve wanted is our dopamine-related reward. Bigger purchase, bigger reward, more dopamine.

While we all think that purchases from local stores have an advantage over internet purchases, this may not actually be the case. Obviously, there are circumstances that can violate whichever side of the theory that you might sit. However, if you sell a product on the Internet, you can find a way to turn this anticipation into an advantage.

In most cases, once a product is purchased on the web, there are three to five days before that product will arrive. Rather than see this delay as a 100 percent disadvantage to an in-store purchase or as something that must be expedited in order to improve your customer relationship, I think there is an opportunity to create a better buying experience for our customers given the research that I revealed above regarding vacations.

Only in rare circumstances is a product actually needed quickly or by a particular date. A small fraction of e-commerce purchases actually result in a customer paying for expedited shipping, and that number dwindles when free shipping is offered. So you have an opportunity with almost every customer to use that customer’s anticipation to your advantage in terms of creating a better buying experience with your brand.

My suggestions for how to use this anticipation are for a future blog or a personalized conversation. Until then, I’ll keep you anticipating.