A few years ago, I was “that guy” — the one searching for fillers to boost my online shopping cart to $25 so that I could have the lot of it shipped to my place gratis. It wasn’t glamorous, but it worked. At the time, it felt like moving entirely unrelated products from Points A, B, and C to my home (let’s call that Point Z) in 5 to 7 business days was acceptable. In fact, it was remarkable. I clicked a few buttons, went about my day, and stuff just showed up a week later in a box I could either re-use or recycle. It was the future.
At some point, I was having a conversation with a dear friend about the annoyances of having to drive to town for knickknacks. You see, I live in what’s considered a “rural” environment. It’s a solid 15 minute drive to groceries, and at least 20 minutes to most other basic stores. If I need something from “the city,” that’s an hourlong commitment in the car in both directions.
“Man, Prime is the best,” my pal said. “Whenever I need something, I just click it and it shows up in two days.” I knew good and well what he was referring to, but he was paying $79 per year for the luxury of having anything and everything shipped to him in 48 hours or less. I could do without. I valued my $79 and its place in my savings account.
Today, my pal and I have one additional thing in common: we’re both continually impressed by having anything and everything delivered to our doorstep in 48 hours or less. Actually, make that two things — we’re also completely spoiled.
I’ve actually never been one to order much online. The on-screen barrier does a great job at giving my brain space to consider just how badly I do (or don’t) need something, which oftentimes leads to me closing the tab before confirming my credit card information. But this year, I moved from a rental into a place of my own, and I was starting fresh on more levels than I had imagined.
It’s not until you’re halfway through a DIY project and you realize you don’t own a 2-3/8” hole bit, a cabling grommet, and a set of electric shears that you value the infinite online marketplace. It’s well understood that moving is one of life’s worst first-world problems. When you’re scrambling to figure out if you have a bed to sleep on and if your electricity has truly been switched from the prior owner to you, the last thing you need is another trip to town for some sub-$5 widget.
Before I knew it, I was defaulting to an online shopping cart. A few bucks here, a couple of items there. Whenever I realized I needed something else for the house, I knew where to find it. And miraculously, it’d be in my hands in two days or less.
What I didn’t expect, however, was how this would completely alter my expectations about the world. “If an online entity can deliver an order of wall hangers, a broom, an outdoor storage chest, and a toilet paper holder in under two days, why do I have to wait for anything?” It’s a pretty unfair benchmark, but I’m convinced that our society is growing less patient, more demanding, and perhaps more efficient because of such rapid advances in supply chain management.
Smart folks will still understand that quality takes time, but rest assured — your clients aren’t going to cut you as much slack as they used to.
Full disclosure: The author is employed by Weber Shandwick, of which Amazon is a client. His thoughts are entirely his own.