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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

A New Level Of Buyer's Remorse

Caitlin Plummer |
October 14, 2013 | 8:29 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

15 percent of online retail purchases are predicted to be conducted over mobile devices this year. (Creative Commons/Flickr)
15 percent of online retail purchases are predicted to be conducted over mobile devices this year. (Creative Commons/Flickr)

“Wait less. Live more. Use Tapingo.”

The slogan of Tapingo, the smartphone app self-proclaimed to be “disrupting the way people shop on and around college campuses,” embodies the emerging mentality of digital shoppers everywhere. The app, which is highly promoted by universities around the United States, allows customers to purchase meals from their smartphones so their orders will be ready for pick-up upon their arrival. The customer gets to skip the long line and waste less precious time. This is just one method of instant gratification found in a wave of new shopping technology.

Online shopping may have been innovative at its development, but more companies are dreaming up ways to take consumer convenience to an even higher level. Though smartphone apps allow for purchasing on the go, companies specializing in online shopping such as eBay and Amazon are now offering same-day delivery in select cities.

eBay Now delivers products from “local” stores within an hour of the order being placed. (In this context, “local” means anything that doesn’t have to be shipped overnight.) The delivery cost is $5 per order and only orders totaling more than $25 are accepted. eBay Now is also only found in three cities across the United States.

Similarly, Amazon “Local Express Delivery” promises same-day delivery for eligible products ordered before a certain time in its respective cities. After the deadline, any orders made will be delivered the next day. Amazon’s payment methods for this service are a little more complicated than eBay Now’s $5 flat rate, but Amazon Prime members receive the perks of Local Express Delivery for $3.99 per eligible item.

(Caitlin Plummer/easel.ly)
(Caitlin Plummer/easel.ly)


Websites focusing on the sale of groceries instead of retail items have sprung up, as well. Max Delivery, a New York-based grocery delivery system, boasts that 99 percent of orders are delivered within one hour. Orders more than $100 on the website receive free delivery, while cheaper orders include a $5 delivery charge. Peapod, another online grocer based on the eastern side of the United States, has recently gone even further to release a smartphone app that restocks dwindling food items when the barcode is scanned from home, sending it straight to the customer’s online grocery cart.

SEE ALSO: H&M Opens Online Store: Was It The Right Move?

However, emerging smartphone technology is working to further enhance the impulsiveness and ease of online shopping. According to a recent New York Times article, MasterCard is partnering with Condé Nast, the publisher of Vanity Fair, Vogue and many other magazines to create ShopThis, which will allow readers of digital magazines to purchase items featured in articles or advertisements with the click or tap of a finger. This feature will debut on Oct. 15, with the November issue of Wired for tablet.

“The whole world right now is about instant gratification,” Matt McKenna recently told the New York Times. McKenna is the founder and president of Red Fish Media, a Miami-based digital and mobile marketing company that is currently working on revamping its mobile strategy.

However, there may be some drawbacks to this supply and demand of instant gratification. The easy access to purchasing power seen in ShopThis is likely to lead to many impulse purchases for consumers everywhere; especially because the simple action of clicking an icon can feel even less like paying real money than using a credit card in a store. In 2007, Forrester Research found that customers spend 15 percent more while online shopping than shopping in a physical store.

Even more, the expanding same-day delivery services may add to the impatient culture developing among younger generations. The Pew Internet & American Life Project has been studying the generation they call the "Millennials" for many years now, and while many disagree on the exact birth years that determine the "Millennial" generation, a study in February 2012 identifies members as those who were "brought up from childhood with a continuous connection to each other and to information will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who count on the Internet as their external brain and who approach problems in a different way from their elders." Indeed, it is rare to stand in line at a store or ride public transportation without seeing several young people on their smartphones. The immediate access to social media, entertainment and information may mean that consumers are slowly beginning to forget how to naturally entertain themselves.

SEE ALSO: The Grove Releases Its Own Shopping App

This lack of patience can also be analyzed concerning the work ethic of younger generations. Experts from the Pew study predict that Millennials will "exhibit a thirst for instant gratification and quick fixes, a loss of patience, and a lack of deep-thinking ability due to what one referred to as ‘fast-twitch wiring.’" If instant gratification continues to develop into a norm, it is probable that those who grow up in such a society will struggle to work for anything that does not pay off immediately. Procrastination is already easier than it was even 10 years ago with the allure of social media and websites like Reddit and YouTube that can entertain for hours at the click of our fingertips.

As the "Millennials" include college students and young professionals, it should be a priority to exercise the concept of delayed gratification because it is much more common in professional and student life than instant gratification. For example, potential employees interview for a position and generally hear back weeks later; students write papers that constitute large percentages of their final grade but don’t feel the effects of their success or failure until the term is over. If younger generations cannot learn how to work for these delayed gratifications as well, their overall success and usefulness in society will dwindle accordingly because they will be unable to commit themselves to long-term goals. While it does not solely target the "Millennials," new digital shopping technology will only add to the effects that social media have shown to exert on the generation through reinforcement of instant gratification.

Of course, those developing these technologies generally disagree with such criticisms.

"We’re not trying to force people to buy things to drive them into debt but to make people’s life easier," Gary Lyons, MasterCard’s chief innovation officer, recently told the New York Times of ShopThis. "We want to use tech to make your life easier in some cases that will result in a commerce transaction."

This technology may eventually be applied not only to digital publications, but also to television, videos and movies. As Lyons put it best, “the potential is endless."

Reach Staff Reporter Caitlin Plummer here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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