The purpose of this paper is to examine the giving and receiving of gifts that are experiences rather than physical goods, and to illuminate how the behavioural processes in the selection, exchange and consumption of such intangible gifts might differ from the generic understanding of gift giving.
A trio of qualitative research methods – depth interviews, self‐completion written instrument, and semi‐structured telephone interviews – captured donor, recipient and industry expert perspectives, yielding a total of 189 real life incidents of experience gift exchange.
The model of experience gift‐giving behaviour encapsulates the behaviour of donors and recipients with sufficient flexibility to incorporate purchased, modified and donor‐created experiences, differing donor decision‐making styles, and immediate or delayed consumption. It is structured around the process stages of decision making, exchange, and post‐exchange/consumption/post‐consumption.
The empirical evidence is drawn from the UK, and is biased towards close personal relationships and experience gifts of higher monetary value.
Consumers in Western societies are actively giving gifts that are experiences. Greater understanding of their behaviour in this marketplace – as evidenced in the paper – will enhance marketing practice for those service organisations recognising the gift potential of their products.
This research is believed to be the first to examine the phenomenon of experiences as gifts – a theoretical contribution that starts to close the gap between real world consumer behaviour and corresponding academic knowledge.
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