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Instant gratification and the rise of Liquid Expectations

We want things fast and we want them now. From Maggi 2 minutes noodles to half-day Amazon deliveries, corporations are banking on the very desire that drives our behaviour and the model seems to be working well.

Grofers abandoned their identity and completely rebranded themselves as Blinkit just to capitalize more on the wave of instant gratification - a promise of 10 minutes (or less) delivery!!!

And it doesn't end here because we always want more! This gives light to what is known as liquid expectations - it is the idea of customer expectations being fluid across different industries.

For example, when a user experiences a seamless and delightful journey from ordering food on a particular app, it's very likely that the same user will have similar expectations from different services/products, like cab services or doctor’s appointments.

But why are we the way we are?

According to research at Princeton University, the brain is divided into two broad areas - one that is associated with our emotions and the other with abstract reasoning. The former, the emotional part of our brain, responds positively to instant gratification. It is this part of the brain that makes you spend hours on Instagram scrolling through useless content when you could have been studying. Now you know what to blame :P

When people really get close to being rewarded, the emotional part of the brain takes over. This is why it’s so hard to resist fries when it stares at you. On a neurochemical level, whenever we see, touch, smell or hear something we really want or like, a hefty dose of dopamine gets released into our brain and we act impulsively.

Dopamine in our brain is the one responsible for the “feel good” factor. Ever got a reply from your crush on Instagram and you couldn’t help but smile like a fool? That’s dopamine at work :)

Have we become worse?

It’s a bit tricky to outrightly state that we have worsened over the millennia. Since the beginning of the human species, speed and efficiency have been the attributes responsible for our superior advantage. We invented creative ways to solve our problems - from figuring out how to start a fire to inventing supersonic jets.

If we look back to the eras aeons ago, information was expensive. One had to travel great distances risking their lives to deliver a piece of communication.

In the 16th Century, the English Navy used to send information about enemy positions by dropping bottles into the sea. It was rumoured that Queen Elizabeth I even created an official position of "Uncorker of Ocean bottles" and if anyone else opens it without permission they would face the death penalty. Yikes!

Fast forward to today, we have become overloaded by information - everything is available now at a click of a button and that too free of cost.

Google processes over 8.5 billion searches per day - that is 99,000 searches every single second!

It’s science and technology that enabled us to come this far. What took days to get delivered can be shipped now almost instantly. Since information has become more accessible than ever before, we are constantly exposed to different segments of our world and empowering us to build reference points quickly.

So, whenever we experience something great on a particular product/service, we look out for a similar experience in other industries. Technology augmented this behaviour because information as an asset has become so easily accessible for all. Every time a product or service sets a new high in user experience, it resonates across every nook and corner of industries, setting new benchmarks every time. This is why our expectations are becoming fluid (liquid).

Corporations’ Dilemma

Is it good news for marketers and corporations? It could be either or both. The core human behaviour is not complex but it evolves extremely rapid giving more room for corporations to capitalise and make good profits out of it.

But, in an open market, the competition is open for all and it’s an expensive game to play. Companies are shelling out an obscene amount of money just to own and hold a small piece of the attention of the consumers. Consumers are in control because they hold the longer end of the stick, the power of choice.

In 2021, Higher Education and College industry on average spent $1,985 (INR 157,949) to acquire one customer!

The future is faster than we think!

It will be exciting years ahead to see how companies will come up with creative ways to feed the insatiable appetite of the market. There are already Artificial intelligence and Machine learning algorithms which are capable of predicting consumer behaviour even before it takes place but let’s keep that topic for another day.

Until then, stay creative responsibly :)

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