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Activity apprehension in experiential purchases

Chadwick J. Miller (Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA)
Adriana Samper (Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Naomi Mandel (Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Daniel C. Brannon (University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado, USA)
Jim Salas (Pepperdine University, Malibu, California, USA)
Martha Troncoza (Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 22 January 2021

Issue publication date: 20 July 2021




The purpose of this paper is to examine how the number of activities within a multi-activity experience influences consumer preferences before and after consumption.


The hypotheses are tested using four experiments and a secondary data set from a river cruise firm that includes first-time river cruise purchases by consumers from this firm between January 2011 and December 2015 (n = 337,457).


Consumers prefer experiences with fewer (vs more) activities before consumption – a phenomenon, this paper calls “activity apprehension” – but prefer experiences with more (vs fewer) activities after consumption. A mediation analysis indicates that this phenomenon occurs because the highly perishable nature of activities makes consumers uncertain about their ability to use all the activities within the experience (usage uncertainty).

Practical implications

Evaluations of a multi-activity experience depend on both the number of activities and on whether the consumer is at the pre- or post-consumption stage of the customer journey. As such, firms looking to sell multi-activity experiences should design and promote these experiences in a way that minimizes activity apprehension.


This study is the first to demonstrate that consumer perceptions of an optimal experience depend on both the number of included activities and on the stage of the customer journey (i.e. pre- or post-purchase). It further contributes to the consumer experience literature by examining an unexplored activity characteristic, perishability, in shaping experiential purchase decisions. Finally, it demonstrates a new way in which experiential purchases differ from tangible product purchases.



The authors would like to thank Jim Bettman, Rebecca W. Hamilton, and Elizabeth Howlett for their helpful feedback.


Miller, C.J., Samper, A., Mandel, N., Brannon, D.C., Salas, J. and Troncoza, M. (2021), "Activity apprehension in experiential purchases", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 516-534.



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