The Race for Instant Gratification in Retail – Who is Winning?

Person holding gift

By Tricia McKinnon

What’s the value of instant gratification? Apparently very high since high performing retailers or should I say tech giants Amazon and Alibaba continue to reduce the time it takes for an order to land on your doorstep. In China, if you order groceries from Alibaba’s Hema grocery stores you can get your order in 30 minutes if you live within 3 km of a Hema grocery store.   Alibaba even offers grocery delivery 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Today I made an order on Amazon and noticed that I could have my order by 9 pm this evening. I was excited.  I don’t have to wait.  Remember the good old days when we would say it’s worth the wait?  That seems to have been replaced with how fast can I get it? While I love how quickly I can have the things I need, I wonder if all of this instant gratification whether it is in terms of speed of delivery or Facebook likes gives us a false sense of how much time it takes to do something worthwhile like revolutionize retail.   Amazon has been in business since 1994 so it has been laser focused on reinventing delivery and the way we shop for nearly 25 years. 

The other question I have is why do we need things so quickly? Do I even need my purchase this evening? No.  If I had to pay for expedited delivery I would have passed and just settled for standard shipping.  The standards within retail are becoming so high that many retailers can’t keep up and neither can the customer.  Are companies like Amazon anticipating our future needs or just overdelivering on them? Do I really need my purchase in 12 hours and not even realize it?  The cost of delivering on instant gratification is very expensive especially for a need that may not even exist.  What will I do the next time I have the choice to get my order delivered in less than 12 hours? I will take it of course.  It’s like 30 minutes or its free pizza delivery but now for everything else. Customers are the real benefactors but for most retailers it’s a real struggle.  Perhaps this is really about squeezing out the retailers that can’t reinvent themselves fast enough to deliver on these ever-evolving standards.

Finally, is the best service about how quickly I receive something or about a more personalized touch?  The service that I tend to remember is always about the little things (or perhaps these are the big things), like when my local dry cleaner greets me by my name or when the Beauty Advisor who recently did my makeup at Sephora did such a good job that I went home and I immediately completed the online customer feedback survey because I wanted to share how good the experience was.

We are certainly receiving things faster but is faster always better?


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Tricia McKinnon