As we all know, there’s a feature on our iPhones called screen time. We’ve been led to believe that the reason Apple helps us track screen time is because they want to help us become more productive, more present, and more connected with people and our surroundings.
The theory is, if we know how much time we’re actually spending on our phones, then we’ll try to limit our usage and use our Apple products less. It sounds so nice, doesn’t it?
If you haven’t already recognized the skepticism in my tone, then let me be clear: I don’t believe any of that is true. And if you also believe it’s counterintuitive for Apple to remind you that you’re spending too much time on their devices, then trust your instincts.
It’s not in their short or long-term interest for you to spend less time streaming Apple Music, watching The Morning Show on Apple TV, or downloading apps from the App Store. Companies like Apple don’t just spend $150 million producing a single season of The Morning Show and then not want everyone to watch every minute of it, all the time.
And what’s my reason for believing this? Well, we now know that a market research was done a few years ago where analysts discovered that, when they asked people to talk about how much time consumers spent on their Apple devices, those people reported they had significantly higher affinity and love for their devices than those who were asked to think about how much money they spent on their devices.
This should help us see why Apple believes it’s important that we know how much time we’re spending on their products—not how much money we spend. And this brings up a very interesting consumer behavior topic. That topic is called consumer consumption: how consumers choose to spend time and money and how happy they feel with their choices.
Consumer Consumption and Happiness
Why is this topic important? Because I believe all businesses should exist to make the lives of people better. And in order for them to do that, they must know what brings about happiness in people.
Consumer consumption typically relies on spending of one or both of our very valuable resources: time and money. And regardless of what business you’re in, you’re fundamentally in the audacious business of asking consumers to part with one or both of these valuable resources.
Therefore, if businesses truly want to improve the lives of consumers, it is required they figure out and identify the particular ways of spending money that contribute to consumer happiness, and particular ways of spending time that improve well-being. So, here are the insights into the age-old question of what makes people happy.
A large set of findings in consumer research shows that experiential purchases bring more happiness to consumers than material purchases. There are a few reasons why this is true. First, experiential purchases tend to be more self-defining compared to material purchase. Not only do they reflect who people are, what’s important to them, and their personal values, but it also helps further define individuality and help people become more like who they want to be.
Experiential purchases are more interpersonally connecting, too. They help us meet new people who share our views and our values, thus building a greater sense of community and belonging. And experiential purchases can also take our existing relationships deeper, giving them more meaning and purpose. These are all important factors to increase happiness in our lives.
We can also say that experiential purchases are harder to compare against alternatives we had to forego and more resistant to hedonic adaptation, which is just a theory that states our happiness returns to an average, or ordinary baseline, after experiencing a high level of happiness or low level of grief.
To give you an example of hedonic adaptation, think about a phone you purchased a few years ago and compare it to a trip you booked around the same time. It’s clear that you still experience much more happiness thinking about the trip you booked versus thinking about the phone you bought.
Experiential purchases are more resistant to hedonic adaptation, harder to compare against alternatives, and therefore we experience less buyer’s remorse compared to material purchases.
Even the anticipation of waiting for an experience is more desirable to waiting for a material object: the first feels like excitement, the second feels like impatience.
Activating the Concept of Time
And just like money, time is a valuable resource that can be spent, saved, budgeted, and wasted. And activating the concept of time, like in the Apple example earlier, can help brands increase the number of sales, plus, the happiness consumers derive from their purchases.
Just as people enjoy products they spend more time with, they also realize more happiness from products they take time to design or create. Research on this topic showed that investing time in product creation can increase how happy consumers subsequently are with that product.
Researchers have called this the “IKEA effect.” They found that, not only did consumers have greater affinity towards products they designed or assembled themselves, but they were also willing to pay more for their products than ones that were already assembled by experts. In fact, research shows that individuals who designed their own T-shirts were willing to pay more for it, even when it was exactly the same as the off-the-shelf version.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. When people spend time to successfully assemble and design a product, it makes them feel competent and accomplished. That sense of accomplishment is tied to a higher sense of self-worth, which ultimately leads to a greater sense of happiness.
Brands Should Increase Happiness
I believe brands have an immense obligation to increase happiness for all people. There’s so much research showing that happiness helps people be more creative and collaborative. When people are happy, they are better problem solvers, they’re more liked by others, and also more liking of other people. And increased feelings of happiness have even been tied to better health and longer life.
What higher purpose, other than manufacturing happiness in the lives of all people, can brands call themselves to? It’s is truly the peak of business achievement.
To your happiness,