Happy Holidays to the Burgeoning Experience Economy

We used to live in a culture where we would spend time to save money. Now we spend money on our time. It’s perhaps no surprise then that so many brands and retailers are switching their brand strategies to focus on the moments that add value rather than on the functional role of their products. 

Retailers that deliver for the experience economy will thrive. Experiences are among the most valued currency today for consumers in pursuit of deep authenticity. The desire for real, exciting moments is the perennial sweet spot. But in order to experience life to its fullest, consumers need time. Time is a precious commodity. These days, spare moments are a luxury not taken for granted. Yes, time-saving purchases make people happier. Money might not be able to buy happiness, but research proves that it can buy free time. 

According to a recent study by Canvas8 behavioral science experts, steady economic growth over the past few decades has seen Westerners reach – and surpass – “peak stuff.” Things aren’t enough to make people happy so they’re feverishly working to find time for experiences that will create long-lasting memories they can cherish, revisit, and share. Turns out the value of a hike in the woods or a trip to a new city brings more joy than designer clothes or flat-screen TVs. 



Our culture of instant gratification, the ubiquity of technology, and popularity of on-demand services has our patience in short supply. Consumers expect immediacy as a standard and have no qualms about moving to a different brand, company, or service if their demands are not instantly met. Efficiency is everything, and compromise is a dirty word. No industry has been left undisrupted by on-demand services that cater to “I want it now” shoppers. Consumers are, indeed, impatient. An app that doesn’t instantly deliver will be abandoned if its load time exceeds six seconds. While this consumer mentality is a perpetual challenge for marketers, the result for consumers is extra time for experiences that matter. 

And, as Christmas is just days away, more down time for inundated global citizens is something to celebrate. 

The boom of the experience economy has consumers spending more eating out, on gym memberships, and on entertainment. Speeding up purchasing by shopping online will inevitably lead to more moments to treasure this holiday season. Time-saving purchases, indeed, make people happier. 

Harvard Business School Professor Ashley Whillans proved in a study last year that buying time with our money, whether it be speed shopping on a flawless retail platform or paying someone to do time-consuming chores, gives consumers a sense of well-being that doesn’t come from material possessions. More than 6,000 people in the U.S., Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands revealed that they felt greater life satisfaction regardless of their income when they had more time. As work-life boundaries continue to blur, the emphasis today is on maximizing moments so consumers can optimize free time. It’s no surprise that purchasing through smart speakers is on the rise. Emerging tech brings convenience, thus, it’s clear why buying through smart voice assistant enabled speakers is a such a focus for home-tech purchases this holiday season. 

In our time-driven, social economy, the intense desire to better ourselves and the world around us is gaining importance. As more socially conscious and socially aware individuals, consumers demand that brands not only echo, but act on the values they hold. 

This holiday season, here’s to the return of some of the humanness into our lives. Here’s to celebrating moments big and small, and to focusing on activities and experiences that are enriching, adventurous, self-fulfilling, and positively benefit society. It’s perhaps the biggest cliché we overlook at this time of year. It’s not about buying presents, it’s about time well spent. 

Happy holidays.


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