How Consumers Create Alternative Consumer Journeys Via Imaginative Mental Experiences
Consumers who desire consumption items are thought to engage in a process of steps allowing them to seek out information, engage in transactions and thereby gain value from their consumer journey. However, not all desired consumption items are immediately accessible to, or realistic for, all consumers and may be deemed “unattainable” by consumers, even though they are also desired and explored via the imagination. Thus, might it be possible for some consumer journeys to exist solely in the mind of the consumer? This dissertation conceptualizes how consumers engage in imaginative mental experiences to create alternative consumer journeys for desired yet unattainable consumption items by integrating prior literature. Evidence derived from exploratory interviews suggests consumers do explore their desired yet unattainable consumption items through imagination, prompting three successive research questions that are the focus of this dissertation. First, when consumers explore desired consumption via imaginative mental experiences, what factors influence their engagement in imaginative mental experiences? Second, when consumers engage in imaginative mental experiences, what are the experiences of consumers who create alternative consumer journeys via imaginative mental experiences? And, third, what outcomes do consumers gain from creating alternative consumer journeys via imaginative mental experiences when consumption is deemed unattainable? Empirical testing of the extended conceptual framework includes a consumer survey, interviews and experimental designs. When consumers identify desired consumption items as unattainable, they are likely to increase their engagement in activities which support and coincide with imaginative mental experience engagement. The imaginative mental experiences consumers create involve an immersive exploration of the experiences they wish to have when they attain their consumption desires. These experiences incorporate their prior knowledge and prior experience. Imaginative mental experiences offer consumers who find their desired consumption to be unattainable the ability to create alternative consumer journeys. This dissertation contributes an augmented understanding of the consumer journey framework by suggesting imagination as an important touchpoint of consumer journeys. As well, this thesis contributes an understanding of the outcomes consumers can experience relating to their imaginative exploration of desired, yet unattainable, consumption items even though they are not engaging in consumption at this time.