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EMAC 2019 Annual Conference

Managing Customers’ Imagination: Antecedents and Effects of Anticipated Surprises

Published: May 28, 2019


Severin Bischof, University of St.Gallen, Institute of Retail Management; Tim Boettger, IÉSEG School of Management; Thomas Rudolph, University of St. Gallen, Institute of Retail Management


Anticipation; Surprise; Subscriptions


This research aims to examine anticipated surprises, which we define as the deliberate purchase and anticipation of surprise items. While the literature has addressed the workings of unexpected surprises, it has not yet touched upon the anticipatory aspect of consumers expecting a surprise. Surprise subscriptions in retail embody the concept of anticipated surprises, as these subscriptions ship recurring boxes containing items chosen solely by the subscription provider. We apply the music-based ITPRA theory to pursue an analysis of the antecedents of anticipated surprise. Our results suggest that shoppers only pleasantly anticipate a surprise in case of bounded possibility realms. Prompting consumers to imagine the eventual surprise increases tension by limiting vagueness and thereby summons feelings of pleasant anticipation. This research utilizes experimental and field data to surface important implications for researchers in terms of a universal theory of anticipation.


The authors would like to thank Prof. Dr. Donald Lehmann (Columbia University) for his valuable comments on this manuscript.