Delight by Design: The Role of Hedonic Versus Utilitarian Benefits

AMA Publishing
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Ravindra Chitturi, Rajagopal Raghunathan, & Vijay Mahajan

Executive Summary
Firms are troubled by findings that more than 60% of customers who switch to another brand classify themselves as “satisfied.” Why does customer satisfaction with products translate into low levels of customer loyalty? A possibility is that customers want more than mere satisfaction; perhaps they want to be “delighted” in exchange for greater loyalty. In this article, the authors explain why customer satisfaction leads to low levels of loyalty, and how product design strategy can be used to delight customers, leading to greater customer loyalty.

The insights offered in this article are beneficial to product designers and marketing managers. The results from this research lead us to conclude the following: (1) Product design benefits that enhance the hedonic dimension of the consumption experience are more likely to delight customers, whereas product design benefits that enhance the utilitarian dimension of the consumption experience are more likely to satisfy customers; (2) despite a positive correlation between delight and satisfaction, they differ significantly in terms of the nature and content of their antecedent emotional experience; and (3) delight leads to improved customer loyalty as measured by word of mouth and repurchase intent than mere satisfaction.

The authors expect that the benefits designed into a product significantly influence customers’ consumption experience, and consequently the customers will be more (or less) loyal. However, it was not known how design could be used to delight customers rather than merely satisfy them and why delighted customers are more loyal than satisfied customers. To find out how design delights customers, this research explores the following question: Is there a difference in the nature of the emotional experience that results from the consumption of hedonic versus utilitarian product design benefits, and if so, do they differ in their ability to satisfy and/or delight the customers? This article demonstrates that the consumption of hedonic product benefits leads to an exciting and cheerful consumption experience, resulting in greater customer delight (e.g., a car with panoramic sunroof and six-speaker audio system). Conversely, the consumption of utilitarian product benefits leads to a confident and secure consumption experience, resulting in greater customer satisfaction (e.g., a car with antilock brakes and vehicle stability assist).

Next, to find out why delighted customers are more loyal than satisfied customers, this research explores the following question: Are delighted customers more likely to indulge in positive word of mouth and report greater repurchase intent than satisfied customers, and if so, why? The results show that the feeling of delight is accompanied by greater arousal or excitement than satisfaction. This added level of arousal motivates a higher level of action tendencies, leading to greater word of mouth and repurchase intent by delighted customers than by satisfied customers. The results collectively offer guidance on how to design hedonic and utilitarian benefits into a product to deliver the desirable consumption experience to delight customers and improve loyalty, as measured by positive word of mouth and repurchase intent.

Biography
Ravindra Chitturi earned his PhD from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin and is currently employed as Assistant Professor of Marketing in the College of Business and Economics at Lehigh University. Ravi’s work draws on theories from design, innovation, emotions, decision theory, and marketing to document and explain interrelationships between design and customer. Ravi’s work has been accepted for publication at Journal of Marketing Research and Journal of Marketing. His current work is under review at Journal of Marketing Research, Decision Sciences, and Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

Rajagopal Raghunathan earned his PhD from the Stern School of Business at New York University and is currently employed as Associate Professor of Marketing in the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. Raj’s work juxtaposes theories from psychology, behavioral sciences, decision theory, and marketing to document and explain interrelationships between affect and consumption behavior. Raj’s work has been published in top marketing and psychology journals, such as Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Raj was recognized as a Marketing Science Young Scholar in 2005 for his contributions to the field of marketing.

Vijay Mahajan, former dean of the Indian School of Business, holds the John P. Harbin Centennial Chair in Business in McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. He has received several lifetime achievement awards for both his academic and his nonacademic contributions, including the Churchill Award and the Parlin Award from the American Marketing Association and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He is currently listed by ISIHighlyCited.com as being one of the most highly cited researchers in business and economics. His recent book on developing countries, The 86% Solution, was released by the Wharton School Publishing.

Journal of Marketing, Vol. 72, No. 3, May 2008
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