Three-fourths of consumers say making a planned purchase is an important motivator for discretionary purchases. As we have seen, consumers build the anticipation of making a purchase through the planning and research phases. Once this anticipatory phase is complete, the consumer has made the decision, stacked all the justifiers in favor of the purchase, and is now ready to make the purchase. Throughout what can be an extended planning period, excitement builds to the ultimate satisfaction of the purchase. "Anticipation is stress, healthy stress," a respondent explains: "You are excited, which is healthy, positive stress." Another explains, "The fun is in the looking." The opposite of planning a purchase is buying on impulse. Planning and anticipating a purchase tends to predominate in the consuming public because only 40 percent of consumers claim that impulse is an important motivator for buying discretionary items. Shoppers who build anticipation toward a planned purchase perceive impulse shoppers as missing out on a lot of the fun in the consuming experience. As one shopper explained: "If you are an impulse shopper, you don't have any of [the fun]. There is no search, no anticipation. Sometimes the search can make you crazy, but I love it and love to buy."
Consumers build the anticipation of making a purchase through the planning and research phases.
Make it affordable through easy monthly payments.
Home-furnishings giant Ethan Allen knows that few customers wander into its company-owned stores without a plan. Furniture represents a major expenditure for most households, and consequently, it is frequently financed over time. As a vertically integrated home-furnishings company, Ethan Allen offers its exclusive brand of furniture in more than 300 company-owned stores supported by the company's own finance plan. The finance plan, introduced in 2001, was a cornerstone of the company's growth that year. The company's marketing strategy, bolstered by its finance program, encourages customers to purchase entire rooms of furniture and accessories, rather than one item at a time. It offers attractive interest rates over extended periods to make even the most expensive suite of furniture affordable to most families.
With the company's tactical marketing strategies in place, it launched a $70 million national advertising campaign to get the word out about the new affordable Ethan Allen furniture. The ad campaign, called "For Life," invites the consumer to participate in a fantasy of owning, using, and having great furniture. The ad highlights three specific products, each introduced with how important that piece of furniture is for your life. About the Horizon bed, priced at $949, it was said: "You work on it . . . You think on it . . . You play on it . . . Spend all day on it." The Tribeca sofa, for $1,349, is to "Pass the time . . . Contemplate things . . . You snooze . . . Watch TV . . . You rest on it. . . ." The spot ends with: "Ethan Allen. Furniture built for life . . . at a price you can actually live with."
This ad sends a powerful message that is perfect for our time. Your home, your furniture, your life means so much more to you now. It is the central focus of your life. Why should your furniture be an afterthought, bought quickly or cheaply? Enhance your life, add more meaning, more fulfillment, more comfort by buying the furniture you always dreamed of owning—Ethan Allen, of course, now priced so even you can afford it. This ad breaks the mold in home furnishings because it is not about style, design, quality, or workmanship. It takes all those things for granted. What it does beautifully and convincingly is communicate at the emotional level. It almost turns plain furniture into a member of your family.
It states: "You spend your life on it. Shouldn't it be the furniture you've always wanted?" What a powerful message.
This ad hit September 7, 2001, and its timing might well be fortuitous. During that awful time that followed the 9/11 tragedy, we all craved comfort, support, nurturing. This Ethan Allen ad was there to offer it through furniture. My guess: No other ad program launched during the troubled third and fourth quarter of 2001 has had such spectacular sales results.
Planning is a more important motivator for purchases that "cost" something, that is, when the consumer has to give up something to make the purchase. Consumer durable purchases—those that are financed or usually paid for by credit card—take more planning to complete. The respondent we met earlier who was buying the Ford Expedition described the decision to buy "like deciding to have a new baby." It represented a major commitment of family resources over the five-year loan period, as well as increased operating expenses. Marketers of large-ticket items that for many families, require planning and budgeting, can often plan on an extended sales cycle that may be even further delayed due to minor shifts in the economic and political winds. In this post-9/11 time, consumers can put off major purchases for a few months or even a year until their personal prospects look more encouraging. On the other hand, some consumers may be overtaken with a "you can't live forever, so get it while you can" attitude that could spark extravagant purchases that would not otherwise be made.
Women tend to report making a planned purchase as a more important motivator than men. By comparison, men are more highly motivated by impulse purchases. Middle-aged consumers, 35 to 54, rate a planned purchase as more important to them than consumers under the age of 24 and consumers aged 55 and older. Two-or-more-person households and those with children are most likely to make a planned discretionary purchase. Single-person households place less importance on planning in their purchase decisions. College-educated consumers tend to rate planned purchases as more important, compared with less-educated consumers. An important aspect of the planning process in anticipation of a discretionary and luxury purchase is conducting research, something that the more educated consumers are better equipped to do.