Expectations of Experiences in a Pandemic

Customer experience

Mastercard’s inaugural Priceless Experiences Research highlights three key areas in how consumers have changed their behaviour: At My Best, Expanding Horizons and Breaking Away. Here the brand’s Kirsty Redfearn unpacks the research and explains how Mastercard is continually adapting to engage with consumers.


The pandemic has driven people to redefine their expectations of experiences. In fact, we uncovered two out of three (71 percent) people value experiences over material possessions, meaning there is a growing expectation that experiences leave an everlasting positive imprint on lives, communities, and the world.

It’s been two decades since Mastercard tapped into the power of experiences and introduced its vision of Priceless to the world, a vision that continues to serve as a catalyst for development of deeper, richer, more compelling consumer engagement. Rooted in emotion and experiences, Priceless leverages a universal truth – that experiences, especially shared experiences, matter.

Many of the experiences this vision promised came down to special moments – the point wasn’t necessarily the ticket, the destination, or the item, but the long-lasting feeling it created for the people involved.

But, how do we value our experiences? When do moments become truly priceless memories? Priceless experiences mean many things to many people – and they’re willing to invest time and energy to make them happen.

Self-fulfilment key to consumers

After a year of a global health crisis, economic uncertainty, of isolation and introspection, we’ve found that people prefer experiences that not only better themselves but strengthen the connections with those around them. 81 percent of people prefer experiences that they can do with family / friends over experiences for them alone. Whether it’s savoring an unforgettable meal at Baduzzi with restaurant founder Michael Dearth, or heading to the Hawke’s Bay to taste rare vintage wines in Elephant Hill’s underground cellar; experiences draw us closer to our connections.

Mastercard has been looking at the changing state of desired consumer experiences and cultural passions, on the shifting experience landscape putting consumer self-fulfillment at the centre. Through story-making, we’ve curated and / or enhanced experiences, anchored in nine consumer passion points – culinary, sports, music, entertainment, arts, travel, philanthropy, shopping, nature – to get consumers closer to the things they love.

The Mastercard Experience Research takes a deep dive into how our passions and values are evolving, and what we look for in experiences to make them truly matter.

Breaking away from the assumed

Some would ask or assume – after a year of learning and living our virtual lives, don’t people just want to break free? Has there been a fundamental shift? Data tells some of this story; and answers some of these questions. The Mastercard Experience Research revealed that almost half of people say they value spending time “unplugged” from their devices, and with more reliance on technology than ever, we increased our focus on tech enabled wellbeing (22 percent).

We’re seeing interests related to self-care / mental wellbeing, breaking away, escapism and experiences with people and their pets, emerging as priorities. Our Priceless experience with Aro Ha Wellness Retreat, where customers can learn wellness techniques for greater ease and happiness in life, is just one example of this. These emerging interests inform marketers, and offer ample space to craft experiences, digital or physical, from everyday to epic.

Priceless perspective

For today’s consumers, the best experiences leave them uplifted and connected. A truly Priceless experience is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Even in the case of luxury experiences, these are more about indulgence (51%) than exclusivity (36%). We must make sure luxury experiences also deliver an element of emotional gratification, beyond a price point, for example, learning to DJ like an expert with global presence and Mastercard ambassador, Insolate. What’s ultimately changed over time is perspective. The importance of the fleeting, momentary pleasure is giving way to the appreciation of experiences that have a lasting impact.

Fifty-nine percent are seeking out new experiences to add to their bow, to their experience, to their story. They’re seeking fulfilment that’s enriching and everlasting. Now more than ever, consumers are prioritising experiences that are defined by lasting value over the ones that are fixed in fleeting moments – making them truly Priceless. And they’re looking for these experiences in the physical and digital world, with 39% saying digital experiences can be as engaging as in-person experiences.

Mastercard has taken these learnings and is bringing people new experiences that connect them to their passions, help them pursue deeper levels of happiness, change them and maybe, even the world around them.

The Priceless brand campaign was introduced to the world more than 20 years ago, and although the world looks much different than it did at the time of debut, the value of a Priceless experience still rings true. The Priceless platform is brought to life by connecting consumers to their passions, in line with the rise of the experiential economy and growing consumer preferences for unique experiences over material purchases. Whether it’s witnessing magic, spicing up a routine, or making time and allowance for passions, as marketers we have the power to connect with consumers more than ever before, to Start Something Priceless.

About Kirsty Redfearn

Kirsty Redfearn is Vice President Integrated Marketing and Communications, Australasia, Mastercard.

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