Comment: the worsening curse of convenience
When I was growing up the word most associated with convenience was store and it simply meant a local shop that was close to where you lived, which enabled it to be accessed easily and quickly.
But over time it seems that the word convenience has become all-encompassing and is having a dramatic impact on everyone’s lives including retailers who are finding themselves at the sharp end of things.
With the advances of technology there has been an explosion in consumer impatience. There is an unwillingness to wait for even a split-second for a web page to download. This has gone hand-in-hand with convenience, which in many cases simply translates into speed and instant gratification. The accepted wisdom is that what consumers demand above everything else is convenience. This is making life increasingly difficult for retailers who are finding they are having to satisfy this appetite for convenience in the shopper journey.
Let’s take online shopping for instance. It provided consumers with the convenience of being able to order goods in an instant and then have them delivered to their homes. How cool is that. But whereas three and five-day deliveries were an initial revelation, and the height of convenience, they quickly came to be unacceptably slow when next-day delivery became widely available. Clearly what came next was the demand for even greater convenience and ever-quicker deliveries.
This led to the quick-commerce phenomenon and rapid deliveries that could have products placed in customers’ hands in a matter of minutes. Into this field have come the take-away food delivery companies Just Eat, Uber Eats and Deliveroo. It was interesting to see a recent survey from Which? find that ordering supermarket groceries via these deliver firms’ apps could result in shoppers paying twice the amount compared with if they purchased them directly from the grocery companies own websites.
This supposed ‘profiteering’ no doubt goes down well with the likes of Which? because it prompts a great story and fuels fury from shoppers for being ripped off. The reality is that consumers have to accept that their increasing demand for convenience has to come with charges because the situation has become unsustainable. The ongoing offer of free delivery and returns by many retailers is proving a killer as the volumes of goods being returned continues to climb year-on-year and cuts deeply into margins.
The demand for convenience and instant gratification was helped by the budget airlines who enabled the online ordering of travel at short notice for bargain basement prices. This is now proving unsustainable – financially and environmentally – and prices are now rising and there
are early signs of interventions taking place. The French Government has decreed a ban on domestic flights of less than two-and-a-half hours where there are alternative train routes.
There is a strong argument that people have become so used to the instant availability of goods and services that this is what they now demand and expect. But actually this might not be the reality. It might be the case that if shoppers are given say a ‘green option’ for the delivery of goods or the return of unwanted items then they will take this option even if it is not the quickest or most convenient.
Such initiatives should be actively sought by retailers because this ongoing move to greater convenience is proving to be an increasingly dangerous dynamic. Once retailers prove to shoppers that there is no direct link between convenience and satisfaction then they have a chance to reset the relationship. This will give them a better chance of future success and they might also help to save the planet at the same time.
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