Instant Gratification – Satisfying the Impatient Customer

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“Instant Gratification represents a paradigm shift in consumer culture and technological innovations have risen to facilitate the transition to a new status quo. The ongoing technological evolution has wrought rapid and unprecedented changes to create astute consumers who expect instant gratification, on the spot,” – Ray Goffer

The modern customer is a much sought after, impatient entity that can dictate the rise and fall of business fortunes. Brands and businesses chase modern customers in a bid to win customer dollars, decode customer preferences, gain customer feedback, and to expand their customer base. Commercial entities also have to delineate customer trends in an attempt to read the mind of modern consumers. One of these trends is instant gratification wherein, customers want instant wish fulfilment irrespective of the conditions and choices prevailing in a given marketplace. Indeed, the hyper-connected electronic world we live in and the customer’s desire for convenience and immediacy has forced modern commerce to conform to such customer desires. Therefore, brands and businesses have little option but to adjust to such realities and cater to the whims and fancies of their customers.

E-commerce operators have acknowledged the customer’s desire for instant gratification by creating delivery structures that help products to reach the customer on the ‘same day’. This is an instance of corporate reaction that enables wish fulfilment of their esteemed customers. Some of the ‘same day’ mechanisms charge customers a premium price but current trends indicate that such forms of instant gratification have entered mainstream commercial practices. More and more e-commerce operators are working to enable said delivery mechanisms because they risk customer abandonment should they ignore such trends in the market. Some experts have theorised that the root of such customer behaviour emerges from the imagery of products typically carried in e-commerce apps. The imagery tends to be high resolution product photos and images that whet customer appetite, leading to demand for ‘same day’ delivery mechanisms.

Human behavioural interactions with the immediate environment represents another factor that drives instant gratification impulses in customers. We must note that modern consumers are pressed for time and therefore, a lot of online shopping takes place at the last minute before an event (such as birthdays, anniversaries, annual holidays, festivals, etc.) The range of modern c-commerce offerings is such that customers can easily avoid visiting physical retain stores and source their shopping from online websites and mobile apps. The deficit of time prompts a desire for the quickest possible delivery, thereby magnifying the market scope for ‘same day’ delivery systems. We must note that modern enterprises have recognised the enormous commercial potential of these mechanisms and have re-wired their business plans and back-end infrastructure to cater to these customer trends.

Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are not exempt from the customer’s desire for instant gratification. Certain ice cream businesses allow customers to create their own unique flavours from a given set of ingredients. These actions encourage individual effort and creativity on the part of the customer and help said businesses to create a special niche in the customer’s mindscape. The experimentation with ingredients and flavours also helps brands and businesses to form deeper connections with their customers. In a similar vein, shops that store and sell music compact discs enable customers to listen to their choice of merchandise by plugging in the discs onto in-store kiosks. These strategies boost customer engagement and cater to the customers’ (sometimes latent) desire for instant gratification.

In a wider sense, we must note that instant gratification has pervaded some of the selling and customer service paradigms of brands and businesses for some time. Businesses often operate multiple channels of customer communication – online FAQ pages, live chat support, email support, social media handles, chatbots, and telephone-based support. These channels are designed to enable the customer to connect to brands and business instantaneously, thereby supporting the concept of instant gratification. These techniques have made store visits somewhat outdated and redundant and that creates issues that are not necessarily within the ambit of the topic under discussion.

Modern customers wish to view results prior to making a purchase decision. This can be termed as a manifestation of the desire for instant gratification in consumer behaviour. For instance, women shopping for beauty products and cosmetics may want to test these products, such as lipsticks, perfumes, and skincare creams before committing to a purchase. The selling mechanisms of the said industry encourage and promote such behaviour and therefore, women shoppers are urged to try the products on the retail counter. Sales personnel have evolved adroit strategies that hinge on such techniques and the demand-supply routine drives sales in said industry. In a similar vein, quick service restaurants offer tasting menus wherein, visitors and customers are encouraged to try different fast food products before they order food and beverages. Clearly, these instances prove the efficacy of using instant gratification to shape and mould customer behaviour.

‘Paint your room’ techniques are deployed by the paints industry in an attempt to promote visual confirmation and instant gratification. These selling strategies can be used both in paint showrooms and in business websites wherein, customers are invited to view the results of applying virtual paint to the walls of a virtual room or living space. We must note that such techniques can significantly boost sales in the paints and varnishes industry because it enables customers to view the final picture prior to applying a single coat of paint. These innovative selling techniques gratify the customer’s desire to make an instant assessment of a selected product and then proceed to a purchase decision.

The evolution of electronic technologies meant for mass consumption has enabled the concept of self-check outs at retail destinations and shopping centres. The use of said technologies enables customers to avoid long queues typical of traditional check-out counters because such queues are popularly viewed as a waste of time and effort. Self-check outs (in conjunction with electronic payment technologies) enable businesses to handle their retail space more efficiently, while affording customers more time to view and assess the merchandise on display.

An emerging aspect of in-store technologies is manifest in sensor fusion that enables customers’ smartphones to connect to an ecosystem of in-store sensors. The mechanism is designed to allow customers the maximum time to shop for products and merchandise and the final bill is deducted from the customer’s connected credit card or bank account. An electronic receipt is automatically directed to the customer’s email account. This system excises long waits at payment queues, removes check-out hurdles, and places the customer at the centre of a unique shopping experience. We must note that such trends are designed to promote instant gratification using modern connectivity and network technologies.

In the preceding paragraphs, we have examined the various methods and technologies that are being created and leveraged by commerce to cater to customers’ desire for instant gratification. Brands and businesses have a duty to adjust to evolving aspects of customer behaviour and must necessarily move in step with the times. That said, we must note that customer behaviour remains an evolving field of study that must take into account a variety of variables. In light of the above, business managers and marketing strategists should constantly scour the customer landscape for emerging realities in an attempt to match these realities with innovation in business strategies.

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