As a New Yorker I face long lines with a sigh of fierce resignation. I don’t doubt the absurdity of the experience. Instead, I foolishly consider it a sign of endurance, even if getting tested for Covid-19 lately means standing outside in 27-degree weather for an hour. Recently, standing in a long line at Starbucks, my patience snapped. It dawned on me that this expectation was the result of my stubborn preference for buying coffee the old fashioned way—that it was actually a way out of this humiliating cycle. I could just place a mobile order and get it in the store without having to wait in line.
This kind of friction-free convenience is very attractive and seems to be everywhere now; this is especially noticeable in transactional spaces, whether it’s a Starbucks, a local grocery store, or an airport. But there is a trade-off involved in overestimating our expectations, and it seems like a big one. These days, customers feel so entitled—and they’re furious. People are angrier, angrier, and more prone to childish tantrums in front of housekeeping staff, as detailed in a recent study. An article in the New York Times titled, “Country on hold wants to speak to the manager.” It doesn’t help that we’ve been in a pandemic for two years now that has burst the country’s bubble of abundance (read: supply chain problems and runaway inflation).
Companies, especially in the public sector, are struggling with a shortage of available workers in an attempt to meet old-fashioned service standards set in a very different time. “The meanness of the public has forced many public industries to rethink what used to be an article of faith: the customer is always right,” wrote Sarah Lyall of the Times. “If employees now have to take on many unexpected roles—therapist, cop, conflict negotiator—then workplace managers are acting as security guards and bouncers to protect their employees.”
Some consumer behavior researchers believe that Amazon is to blame for these high (and often impractical) expectations, from one-click purchase to one-day delivery. “We call it the Amazonization of the business,” said Thomas Hollman, director of the Arizona State Service Management Center. “Everyone is being compared to Amazon in terms of waiting in line, ways to interact with customers and knowledge base. This perception equalizes all types of business.”
It didn’t help that Americans are being wooed by a growing number of apps and technologies that speed up the shopping experience. With mobile ordering, instant delivery, automated chatbots, and even self-service kiosks, people are being promised speed along with better, faster service. These tools are designed to give the customer more control over how they receive their item. Along with this comes the semblance of an efficient life – at the expense of digital privacy, money, and the growing influence of technology companies on our lives. Have you ever been swayed by late-night notifications urging you to order takeout?
Venture capital firms are optimistic in an emerging and crowded market ultra-fast delivery startups, which are yet to be be profitable without the help of investors. By replacing human-to-human interactions with human-machine transactions, shoppers forgo the mundane annoyances of running errands or having a cup of coffee. This may seem like an individual consumer choice, but it is based on the post-pandemic retail and service environment, which can be hostile to general shoppers.
In October, tech writer Drew Austin noted that his regular trips to NYC convenience stores and pharmacies had become littered with unexpected inconveniences. There are fewer and fewer employees on the shift, which means that the queues at the checkout are getting longer. Meanwhile, more goods are blocked to compensate potential increase in theft from the installation of self-service kiosks, which shoppers are encouraged to use to avoid waiting in long lines.
This creates an unpleasant and inappropriate shopping experience at Walgreens where you expect to get in and out without a hitch. “The hidden meaning of all this for regular customers is that we had to stay at home and order online,” wrote Austin. “These places are not for us. We actually invaded the company’s warehouse. Manhattan resembles a “post-coronavirus retail desert,” he continued, populated by empty chain stores that are turning into instant delivery centers.
New Yorkers, for example, may have once needed to be persuaded to try instant grocery delivery or delivery restaurants, which venture capitalists call “ghost kitchens”. The pandemic has changed the stakes not only for consumers who have had an incentive to stay home and order, but also for businesses reconsidering the need for traditional retail space. Starbucks, according to The newspaper “New York Times, has permanently closed 44 of its 235 locations in Manhattan since early 2020. However, it has plans to expand its mobile phone lending offerings and add more pick-up-only outlets.
A study by Edge by Ascential, a digital commerce consulting firm, predicts that retailers can devote as much one third of their area, which was once used for in-person purchases, will take online orders in the coming years. This transition is likely to cost businesses more moneycompared to when shoppers walk into a store and select the items they want. However, judging by the way things are going, more and more people are choosing to have items shipped to them and delivered within the same week, day, or even within the next 15 minutes.
This preference doesn’t just apply to everyday necessities like groceries, baby food, or toilet paper. Direct-to-consumer startups, especially in the home improvement, food and beverage industries, are trying to reach urban shoppers through on-demand delivery. “What we’re trying to achieve with quick commerce is to give people the opportunity to get as close as possible to instant gratification,” says the head of customer service at Olipop, a low-calorie alternative to sodas. said Thingtesting. “If consumers are looking for a drink late at night, we want to make sure it’s Olipop.”
Despite the explosive growth of instant delivery applications, most of them have not yet brought sustainable returns to investors. pumping them up with billions of dollars. Even as Amazon and couriers like DoorDash, Uber, and Gopuff seek to turn city centers into fulfillment centers complete with ghost kitchens and ghost brands, stores — and all the inconveniences of in-person shopping — will still exist. more-less. . Shoppers still love strolling through malls, no matter how tech-savvy they are.
Amazon may have won customers over with its incredibly fast delivery standards, but its business model is not free from logistical complexities. One-day shipping is expensive and relies on a huge underpaid workforce that small retailers cannot afford. “What solves all these problems – high return rates, prohibitive last mile shipping costs, logistics nightmares, customer frustration and the monumental amount of consumer waste that all of this sends to landfills – on some level? The shops. I’m going to the store.” wrote Amanda Mull from Atlantic.
At the start of the pandemic, Americans avoided in-person purchases out of necessity. Today, with most businesses more or less reopened, many are choosing to stay away from stores due to declining customer experience. This is the result of a myriad of factors that retailers have implemented to cut costs, from the introduction of new technology to understaffing. Meanwhile, shipping appears to be the antidote to in-store chaos, when in fact it isn’t, from a retailer’s point of view.
Soon, retail employees may be too busy meeting delivery quotas to be relieved that customers no longer require to speak to a manager. The future of retail wants to offer hyper-optimized convenience to shoppers. But is it all really good for us? And is it financially possible?