Convenience Evolution: Resetting Consumer Expectations

Feb. 13, 2023

Convenience Evolution: Resetting Consumer Expectations

--By CB Rajesh--

When a company promises to deliver food warm to your doorstep, it means that the food is impeccably packed and delivered in less than thirty minutes. This is a sea change in consumers’ lifestyles and expectations. This usually takes a little while for us to get used to this change and thus become a norm or what we call a minimum level of expectation. Thus, this transformation consequently creates a cascading effect on other services and consumers now expect a faster turnaround time for more such related services and then tend to compare. This change, in turn, will bring disruption to other companies which may be providing products and services in an entirely different domain. Some examples are laundry, grocery, automobile, and banking & allied services.

It’s akin to a child arguing with her mother about why she cannot watch her favorite program on TV.  Like mobiles, television has several channels and plays standard content with multiple breaks. Whereas the new-age content providers like YouTube, Netflix & Amazon Prime let you consume whatever, whenever you want without any fuss. In another instance, I saw someone ordering a pizza & milkshake simultaneously from 2 different joints through an online food-ordering and delivery platform.

These disruptors follow a pattern of “I4”- Introduce, Induce, Influence, and Ingrained. The phenomenon could also be called the habituation of products & services till the next one arrives and disrupts the previous one. Each time the convenience cycle is improved upon the previous version the expectations are reset. After multiple cycles of such disruption, even the original disruption looks very weak & slow. A case in point is if we compare today’s smartphone with 4G speed which allows uninterrupted heavy live gaming experience compared to the old and iconic Snake game in old Nokia WAP phones.

Does this mean each time the turnaround time is slashed it will be caught on? The short answer is “no”. Let’s explore this phenomenon further.

These days there is a conscious effort being made towards creating marketplaces and taking the products and services to customers by right match-making and this evolution is enabled by:

  •        Cheap high-speed Internet
  •        Increased smartphone penetration
  •         Secure e-payments / digital wallets
  •         Large resource pool of partners for logistics

There is a serious amount of multitasking that is carried out at homes & workplaces and most of us are looking to minimize friction in our day-to-day affairs. As per the case studies of many top CX Consulting firms, any innovation which seeks to get the middle-man out and give power to the hands of the customer stands a greater chance to succeed as it cuts the friction & also perceptibly costs less. A case in point is today's banking transactions or digital money. You may execute almost all possible transactions free of cost sitting anywhere using the new age banking apps, all those who are in their 30s & 40s today will remember their numerous trips to banks for all the transactions including the most basic ones like cash withdrawals.

It is typical of us to seek consistency in our experience, in the past as well as the present. We would like to deal with the same shop or salon or that same fuel station for certain reasons like a fair price, personalization, or comfort. This relationship extends for years and the inertia to change is extremely high.  We deal with them for years without getting bored and are nervous if we were to walk into a new one and are required to engage with a completely new set of people, not sure about how we will be treated or dealt with. We sometimes require that extra nudge to ‘get comfortable’, which is why all the new store guys are focussing on treating everyone warm and welcoming.

The population, hence, is divided into two halves- one, people who are witnessing the change, and two- people who were born after the change. The people who are seeing the change happening know about an alternative or how life existed without these innovations but for the latter, it has been a norm. The innovation cycle is a continuous loop and it constantly challenges the current norms and ways of working. We no more collect & store any more music or movies in cassettes and CDs which was the norm earlier. These were also very expensive propositions, today people carry thousands of songs and movies on their mobile devices/ laptops. This is primarily due to the higher storage capacity of devices and the proliferation of cloud storage.

To conclude, we have moved on from personal engagement to mass production and this triggered a retail revolution. Here product brands became the key differentiator. The next change happened through the segmentation of customers, markets & their behaviors. Finally, the e-commerce revolution got going by providing convenience, choice, and discounts across the year.

The next big change will complete the loop by hyper individualization of products and services without diluting the convenience. This will mostly be done through Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML). This change will have to be handled with care without overstepping on privacy.