I recently ordered an item from Amazon Prime only for the package to be delivered after the promised delivery date. It turned out that the error was mine: I had not checked that the entry code for my building was correctly included with the address instructions. Initially, however, I was very frustrated at the failure to meet the promised two day delivery window. Looking back, I am surprised that I found the late delivery so disturbing, especially given that receipt of the item was not time critical. The experience, and my reaction, illustrates how the world of retail has changed, and particularly how the expectations of consumers have risen. We have always wanted our purchases as fast as possible, but we seem even more determined to have immediate gratification. After all, only a couple of years ago I would have delighted if my package had been delivered within a week!
The new standards for efficient delivery have major implications for the way many businesses operate. Walmart is now competing with Amazon’s prized two day delivery schedule, and they are even offering this service at no charge for orders over $35. Amazon charges $100 per year for their equivalent Prime membership. To try and combat the new competitive threats, Amazon has introduced free 2-hour delivery on select goods in certain cities; a service which seems to be a logistical and administrative wonder. Behind these remarkable service commitments, a whole new industry has developed with the sole focus of providing the fastest possible delivery timelines. The impact of this new industry can be seen in the high demand for industrial warehouse space. Moreover there is a continued rise of “last mile” delivery services such as LaserShip, and established players such as USPS have implemented Sunday package deliveries.
The “mentality of now” can be seen in changing consumer expectations beyond online retail. In the entertainment sector, the rise of Netflix has brought with it the growth of “binge watching” TV shows. Netflix had led the way in making whole seasons of popular TV shows available all at once instead of releasing new episodes once a week. In a short period of time, weekend-long cable TV marathons have become an option of choice for many US households. Of course some would argue that it is more fun to ponder the cliffhanger questions for a few days rather than moving quickly to the decisive episode. It is likely that the question “who shot JR?” would never have become a media story in the modern world.
In the midst of this normalization of immediate gratification, I hope I can find some time and patience to reflect on the my good fortune to be living in an era where my wants as a consumer can be satisfied so quickly. Maybe I should even take some time before watching the next episode, or resist pressing the next day delivery button. Quite often the pleasure of getting what we want is enhanced if we have to wait.