Keeping Up in the On-Demand Economy

Man Writing I Want It Now

Public transit running on delay? Request an Uber or Lyft for immediate transportation. A party gone dry? Tap a button and have alcohol rush-delivered. Forget a necessary ingredient at the grocery store? Order it through Postmates and get it in time for the next step of your recipe.

By catering to the needs of consumers in what feels like an instant, the on-demand economy has shortened consumer attention spans, rendering the need for patience in the marketplace nearly obsolete. Perhaps the most visible example is Amazon Prime Now, which offers 2-hour delivery on over 25,000 products spanning 25 product categories, from household essentials to electronics to pet supplies. The service eliminates the need to leave the room, without sacrificing immediacy or efficiency.

Traditional retailers can’t compete with the convenience and speed of immediate delivery, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for them to succeed. Since brands likely can’t be faster or more convenient than top performers in the space, they should compete where their on-demand counterparts can’t—by creating that which can’t be replicated digitally. This is an opportunity to give consumers a compelling reason to come to them, something that offsets the “inconvenience” of in-person shopping.

Innovative grocers have taken this to heart. With delivery services like Peapod and Instacart eating into profits, they have started to expand shoppers’ expectations of what a grocery trip can entail. Rather than just purchasing food for the week ahead, consumers can now grab a drink, test out new foods and be entertained. Providing samples for customers may not be a novel approach, but Trader Joe’s makes them an integral element of the shopping experience—checkout lines frequently snake through the maze of store aisles, and shoppers know to expect a sample station along the way. Not just the chance to try something new, it’s also a way to lessen the burden of waiting in line. Whole Foods takes it a step farther, with stores now including restaurants and bars within. The bar at a Brooklyn location hosts weekly trivia nights, reflecting an attempt to create a community for shoppers.

These experiences can be complimentary or require purchase, so long as they demonstrate concern and appreciation for consumers. Cosmetics store Sephora allows shoppers to try on any product prior to purchase. Home goods retailer Sur La Table offers cooking classes that not only provide the chance to test out their cookware, but also impart new recipes and skills. The opportunity to take a product for a test drive is something that online retailers can’t provide as easily. It’s the “touch and feel” effect, and it’s lost when a purchase is made fully online.

At its heart, creating an experience is just a way to provide excellent customer service. Consumers are willing to slow down when it feels worth it, and by putting their interests at the forefront, savvy brands are able to connect with them in a meaningful way. Carving out their own niche will help traditional retailers succeed in the evolving on-demand culture, building loyalty and affinity in the landscape in which they operate.

Shopping with Olivia Wilde


Olivia Wilde, actress and activist, recently launched her own retail site encouraging conscious consumerism. Concious Commerce aims to create a game plan for conscious living by endorsing brands, companies, causes, people and lifestyles that forge an outstanding example of how to live sensibly. So if you’re looking to “do a better job at life,” check out the site and join Olivia on her quest to live purposefully.

The “Hands Free” Umbrella


New Yorkers definitely have their hands full on a daily basis—juggling cell phones, coffees, wallets, shopping bags, you name it. Adding an umbrella complicates things, at least according to Nubrella. The company has created a hands-free umbrella that is worn like a backpack and operates like a hooded canopy. While it may not be the most stylist rain gear, it has attracted enough attention to raise $25,000 on its Kickstarter campaign.

Find Your State’s Smell


Smell is the only sense that affects the memory and emotional part of the brain, so it was only a matter of time before someone found a way to bottle the smell of childhood nostalgia. United Scents of America, a line of state-inspired fragrances meant to evoke memories through scent, hope their “fragrances will bring people back to fond childhood memories, favorite vacations or any time in their life that they can associate to a special place.” To date, the US-based company has created fragrances for seven states. As for the fragrance notes in the New Jersey fragrance? Summers at the shore, naturally.

Office Music Just Got Better


Tired of listening to the same tracks over and over during your work day? SubPac brings a new musical experience by allowing you to literally feel your music. This portable, padded backrest resembles a back massager, but instead of automated vibrations, it pulses the low, bass-level frequencies of the music you’re listening to. The best part: it uses headphones, so you can enjoy your favorite guilty pleasures without the rest of the office knowing. [Source: Thrillist]

Bartendro – A Cocktail Dispensing Robot


Sick of elbowing your way to the bar at your local haunt? Tired of trying to attract the bartender’s attention? You might be in luck. West Coast-based Party Robotics has recently proposed a Kickstarter project for a personal robotic bartender called Bartendro, which has already amassed $179,791 in funding ($44,791 over its goal). The bot can pour a perfect drink in less than 10 seconds, allowing you to browse a drink menu on your smartphone. There are four days to go, so if you want to support the automated-merriment, now’s your chance!