Consumer travel excitement starts long before they pack their bags. Like kids counting off the days until Christmas, consumers looking forward to a trip relish the anticipation almost as much as the journey itself. They use online inspiration (in the form of collected and curated samplings of all types of media, including Pinterest boards) to fuel their travel daydreams and shopping lists before they go. Travel blogger Ben Pastore coined a shorthand term to describe pre-trip expectation: "tranticipation," defined as "the often intangible feelings of hope and positive expectation that precede a trip.” The feelings may be intangible, but data backs them up. When asked to rate the enjoyment they got from anticipating impending purchases, consumers felt much more excited about experiential purchases like an upcoming ski trip than they did about material purchases like a new laptop, according to a Cornell University study published in Psychological Science. (8/14)
With the advent of aspirational web browsing as a pastime, vacation anticipation has mushroomed into its own travel genre. From the moment Pinterest launched in early 2010, consumers started amping their excitement by pinning photos of places they planned or hoped to visit on their boards. Four Seasons helps travelers turn inspiring images into the perfectly tailored trip. Their Pin.Pack.Go Pinterest-based service provides vacation suggestions based on a user’s pins. "One of my guilty pleasures is creating itineraries for possible future trips," writes New York Times reader Meg Norris in the Times comment section. "Some people like playing fantasy football. I like playing fantasy traveler." (NYTimes.com, 5/11/15) Books, movies and cuisine can turn trip planning into a multi-sensory experience (e.g., French film marathon, escargot and Chanel before a trip to Paris).
In the luxury travel segment specifically, the planning phase makes for a ripe path to purchase for items that travelers project will step-up their travel experience. Well-heeled consumers book luxury trips an average of 53 days in advance, and are 59% more likely to make a retail purchase than affluents who don't have a trip planned, according to a Rocket Fuel study. (LuxuryDaily.com, 7/23/15) Luxury travelers make an average of 18 pre-trip purchases and spend an average of $184.55 per transaction.
“Tranticipation” is especially profound in families. Disney stokes the excitement with its MouseWait Countdown app, which ticks off the days, minutes and seconds until the family trip to the Magic Kingdom. It’s the ultimate “Mom, are we there yet?” experience.
So what does this mean to marketers?
Travel consumers want a memorable experience long before heading for the horizon. Vacation anticipation appears the most rewarding -- and least expensive -- route to happiness, at least short-term. Brands that tap into consumer expectancy in the trip-planning stage can come along for the ride.
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