The unstoppable rise of the experience economy

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Glamping in a pod at Castlerigg Hall, Keswick, Cumbria. Photo by David D Jackson

Over the last few years there has been a revolution in the way we spend. More than ever we are buying experiences rather than goods.

In the United States expenditure on experiences has grown four times faster than on products. It is a similar story in Britain.

According to a report by consultancy firm McKinsey: “Faced with the choice of buying a trendy designer jacket or a shiny new appliance or of attending a show, consumers increasingly opt for the show and, more broadly, for experiences with their friends and families.”

The evidence for this is everywhere. A quick scroll through my Instagram feed reveals friends on biking holidays and in fancy restaurants; at music festivals, art exhibitions and brewery tours.

At its heart there appears to be a fundamental shift in what we value – a growing realisation, perhaps, that life is short and meaningful memories matter.

A recent study at Cornell University supports this, with the finding that consumers’, “evaluations of their material goods went down from the time of the initial purchase to the present, but their evaluations of their experiences tended to go up.”

The study goes on to suggest that experiences are, “more open to positive reinterpretation, they tend to become more meaningful parts of one’s identity, and they do more to foster social relationships.”

Social media plays an important role in this trend. Receiving feedback in the form of likes and comments can help reinforce positive feelings associated with an experience.

The ability to look back over past experiences on social media provides a way to relive special moments all over again too – something Facebook tapped into with their ‘On This Day’ feature.

Every week the experience economy grows ever larger as entrepreneurs seek to cater for ever more unique and adventurous experiences.

And so camping evolves into glamping – why stay in a tent when you can choose a yurt, tipi, pod or gypsy caravan?

“Shared experiences with friends and family have a deeper psychological link to long-term intrinsic happiness than buying products does,” according to McKinsey.

Or as a philosopher once said, “What is life if not a series of moments remembered?”

A tour at Lancaster Brewery

This article was also published as part of a weekly column in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post.

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