Long ago, I, like most well brought up children was taught that the satisfaction of acquisition was made all the sweeter if you had to wait for it. It was called deferred gratification. Toys, meals, a new bike, all would be much better if you could only exercise enough self-control to wait a little bit longer. It went hand in hand with having the discipline to buy things only when you had saved up the money. It may have been a hangover from the rationing of the war years, or it may just have been a way of fobbing kids off. Whatever the reason, my generation spent ages staring in shop windows or flicking through catalogues lusting after things we one day hoped to own, and all the time saving our pennies.
Today, instant credit and infinite choice brings everything within easy reach, and traders pander to our every whim. But who would have thought that instant gratification would become the new secret weapon of bricks and mortar retailers in their fight back against the online scourge? Now, according to an article in esciencenews, a new study from Columbia Business School, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, finds that the positive feelings consumers experience when receiving a discounted price fades dramatically if the consumer is then forced to wait for the product. “This might spell trouble for online retailers like Amazon that offer discounted items and then force consumers to wait for the product,” said Columbia Business School’s Associate Professor of Marketing Leonard Lee, who performed the research with Rotman School of Management’s Associate Professor of Marketing Claire Tsai. “Our research shows that even if the wait is relatively short — as little as 15 minutes — the consumer’s enjoyment of the product decreases dramatically.”
Lee continued: “Keeping in mind that instant gratification has become a hallmark of society, brick and mortar businesses can add value to their bottom lines by offering in-store promotions on the products they know people want to experience immediately rather than waiting for delivery. This is a key competitive advantage they could have over online retailers and one that might secure their long-term survival in an expanding online marketplace.”
The research titled, How Price Promotions Influence Post-Purchase Consumption Experience over Time, defies long-standing conventional wisdom that discounts cause consumers to enjoy products even more. For concrete proof that instant gratification gives an extra adrenaline kick we need look no further than the hysteria generated in response to so called Black Friday discounts. One disgruntled ASDA shopper was reportedly wrestled to the ground before being led away in handcuffs by police when he didn’t get to buy two cut-price tellies. While elsewhere a stampeding queue of shoppers allegedly broke an elderly woman’s arm.
Whatever next? Will retailers’ USPs soon include ‘best fist fight in pursuit of a bargain’, or ‘best Black Friday riot’?