A wealth of consumer research has proposed an experiential advantage: consumers yield greater happiness from purchasing experiences compared to material possessions. While this research stream has undoubtedly influenced consumer research, few have questioned its limitations, explored moderators, or investigated filedrawer effects. This has left marketing managers, consumers, and researchers questioning the relevance of the experiential advantage. To address these questions, the authors develop a model of consumer happiness and well-being based on psychological needs (i.e., autonomy, relatedness, self-esteem, and meaningfulness), and conduct an experiential advantage meta-analysis to test this model. Collecting 360 effect sizes from 141 studies, the meta-analysis supports the experiential advantage (d = 0.383, 95% CI [0.336, 0.430]), of which approximately a third of the effect may be attributable to publication bias. The analysis finds differential effects depending on the type of dependent measure, suggesting that the experiential advantage may be more tied to relatedness than to happiness and willingness to pay. The experiential advantage is reduced for negative experiences, for solitary experiences, for lower socioeconomic status consumers, and when experiences provide a similar level of utilitarian benefits relative to material goods. Finally, results suggest future studies in this literature should use larger sample sizes than current practice.
Weingarten, E., & Goodman, J. K. (2021). Re-examining the Experiential Advantage in Consumption: A Meta-Analysis and Review. Journal of Consumer Research, 47(6), 855–877. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucaa047