Immediate gratification in the age of e-commerce

Roughly fifteen years ago I wrote an article about how then-emerging e-commerce merchant was fighting uphill against some foundational consumer purchasing behaviors (i.e., desire for immediate gratification) while successfully embracing others (i.e., price consciousness and the desire to avoid paying taxes). So the argument was that while people want to save money (while sticking it to “the man” in the process) I wondered how that would weigh out when compared to the desire to have “it” now. For Americans the dichotomy is practically an identity crisis.

Now in the second decade of the 21st century we are beseiged by devices that vie for our attention but our desire for immediate material gratification is really no more satified by the strides we have made in e-commerce than when Richard Sears pioneered the concept in the late 19th century. Sure we have music, books and movies “on demand” thanks to the likes of Apple,, and Comcast, respectively. There was even a promising, albeit brief and ill-executed, experiment with near real-time material gratification with dot-com disaster In recent years Sears has experimented with a true multichannel retail model that allows shoppers to buy online and then arrive at a single location where their goods will be loaded into their car.  Essentially it can eliminate a trips to a few different stores as well as the time spent wandering around a store filling the cart. That said, I am still waiting for Target or Costco to figure out how to build a last mile fulfillment model that gets consumers their products in hours and not days. Call it e-commerce on demand and let me know when merchants come to me, not the other way around.