MBA Research

Trend #41: Increased Societal Desire for Instant Gratification

This month's Action Brief focuses on society’s increased desire for instant gratification tailored to individual preferences.

Business Implications

The Golden Arches of McDonald’s, one of the most recognizable symbols in the world, represents American culture across the world. The global penetration of the chain and that of its competitors has had a large impact on society. Their effects are not only related to eating habits. They also impact customer behavior, business models, and product development.

Customers expect McDonald’s speed and efficiency at other businesses. Burger King, for example, offers to customize menu options with its “Have It Your Way!” campaign. The desire to “have it my way” has also caught on across businesses. Products must not only be quick and easy; they must be catered to individual needs and preferences. Customers want exactly what they want – and they want it now.

High-speed Internet access and mobile devices have made it easy to do whatever one wants at the click of a button. We can use social media to see what friends are doing in real time. We can communicate and receive split-second responses. With search engines, we can find the answer to any question in seconds. Naturally, consumers have begun to expect that their economic needs and wants will be met just as quickly.

Because of increased technological capabilities, personalization and efficiency are now standard expectations. The food industry is perhaps the most obvious example. Build-your-own-meal restaurants such as Chipotle appeal to customers with their speed and customization. Online orders from grocery stores or restaurants can be delivered right to the customer’s door.

This desire for efficiency and customization is found in many product categories. Instead of spending time hailing a cab or waiting for public transportation, customers can order a car by phone.  Music streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify predict the music users want to hear with individualized playlists, rather than listeners taking the time to discover music on their own. Even dating and relationships have become customized, convenient experiences with the use of mobile apps, enabling people to connect with others who fit their exact interests and specifications.

No industry seems to be off limits or incapable of adapting to this new model. Businesses can look to innovative companies such as Uber, GrubHub, InstaCart, and Amazon as examples. Among many others, these organizations stand out due to their responsiveness to customer convenience. They show that it is possible to make nearly anything available instantly and easily. Companies wanting to emulate these brands should look for creative, innovative ways to simplify people’s lives.

But, it doesn’t take a new business model to satisfy customer insistence on customized, efficient services. Businesses are implementing agile practices companywide to increase reactions to changes that are shortening product life cycles. Many companies are also using customer-experience mapping to provide better, more responsive service. Rather than focusing on individual customer touchpoints, this approach helps businesses to follow a customer from initial contact throughout the customer journey with the company. This improves efficiencies by cutting across departmental siloes and processes to improve the overall customer experience.

Supply chains have emerged as a critically important focus for improving efficiencies. Suppliers and wholesalers need to follow through with guarantees and be transparent to their business customers. Supply-chain processes are being examined to eliminate any inefficiencies.

Businesses must also be aware of the way that instant gratification affects potential new employees. Today’s entry-level job seekers want to reach their career goals much more quickly and easily than ever before. They want a career that is perfectly tailored to their skills and interests. Rather than attempting to “sell themselves” in an interview, job seekers instead try to find out what the company can do for them. Companies must find ways to become employers of choice through day-to-day respectful treatment, customized work options, instant feedback on performance, social involvement benefit options, schedule flexibility, promotions, and compensation programs and more. Otherwise, they risk not being able to hire and losing talented employees to other positions.

The need for speed is not going away. In fact, demand for efficient and customized products is likely to increase. Businesses must strive to find the balance between speed and cost efficiency when customizing and personalizing. The companies and employees who find creative solutions to people’s problems will be the ones that succeed.

Classroom Implications

Students need to understand what business models are and that they will continue to change. Have students identify the business models of local businesses and recommend ways that one of those businesses could change its business model to be more responsive to customer needs.

Students should learn about the types of jobs and industries that will grow due to the instant gratification trend. Ask students to identify businesses that have surfaced due to customers’ need to have it my way—now.

Have students map their customer experience with a business, asking them to identify their initial contact with the business all the way through the product purchase. Ask them to identify any glitches encountered along the way and to recommend how to improve business processes.

Prepare students to have appropriate expectations when they begin seeking a job. Those who know what to realistically expect will be better equipped for success. Finally, students should grasp the importance of trends that create new business opportunities.