We contend that some encounters that do not involve deliberate choice are more enjoyable because the way they happen generates feelings of serendipity. Serendipity in the marketplace is the set of feelings resulting from a product, service, or experience that is positive, unexpected, and attributed to some degree of chance. The presence of serendipity in the product experience positively influenced satisfaction, enjoyment, meaningfulness, willingness to pay, willing to recommend, and interest. This effect was enhanced with a high degree of randomness and attenuated when the product encounter was negative.
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Kim, Aekyoung, Felipe M. Affonso, Juliano Laran & Kristina M. Durante (2021), “Serendipity: Chance Encounters in the Marketplace Enhance Consumer Satisfaction,” Journal of Marketing.
Despite evidence that consumers appreciate freedom of choice, they also enjoy recommendation systems, subscription services, and marketplace encounters that seemingly occur by chance. This paper proposes that enjoyment can, in some contexts, be higher than that in contexts involving choice. This occurs as a result of feelings of serendipity that arise when a marketplace encounter is positive, unexpected, and attributed to some degree of chance. A series of studies shows that feelings of serendipity positively influence an array of consumer outcomes, including satisfaction and enjoyment, perceptions of meaningfulness of an experience, likelihood of recommending a company, and likelihood of purchasing additional products from the company. The findings show that strategies based on serendipity are even more effective when consumers perceive that randomness played a role in how an encounter occurred, and not effective when the encounter is negative, the encounter occurs deterministically (i.e., planned by marketers to target consumers), and consumers perceive that they have enough knowledge to make their own choices. Altogether, this research suggests that marketers can influence customer satisfaction by structuring marketplace encounters to appear more serendipitous, as opposed to expected or entirely chosen by the consumer.
Special thanks to Holly Howe (Ph.D. candidate at Duke University) and Demi Oba (Ph.D. candidate at Duke University), for their support in working with authors on submissions to this program.
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