Food deliverer drives trough city very fast

The on-demand society: how our drive for efficiency is hurting our happiness

With the introduction of on-demand grocery delivery services the ecosystem of ‘I want this today without leaving my couch’-services is getting pretty saturated. As a matter of fact, it is getting increasingly hard to think of things you cannot receive at home within 48 hours, and let’s be honest; even if you do think of something—it’s likely just a matter of time. However, in our dedicated pursuit of efficiency and convenience, we might risk more than we are aware of.

A recent Dutch article by Vrij Nederland discusses the possible downsides of the so called flitseconomie (flash economy). One of these downsides is the erosion of our patience. Because everything around us is instant, we are no longer prepared to wait for things. We internalised the values of our economic system; efficiency and optimalization. And even though these things are nice, fulfilment often requires effort and patience. Spending time and energy on activities breeds dedication and finally devotion. And it is when we see the fruits or our labor that we experience fulfilment. Generally we are happier with a perfectly cooked meal after creating it for half a day than when it would be delivered to us 5 minutes prior to dinner time. Same meal, different experience. 

Another possible downside of the convenience economy is the decreasing moments of social connection. When the goal is to optimize every process, human contact is one of the first things to go. After all, humans are often more inefficient, as well as more expensive. In more traditional societies (read: 20 years ago)—even if you wanted to avoid social contact as much as possible—you would still have some mandatory social interactions. You would have to talk to cashier in the supermarket, the florist, the guy behind the counter in the video store etc. An impactful side effect of the opportunity to have everything home-delivered is that it has become awfully convenient to hide yourself from the world. Yet at the same time where we are digitally more connected than ever, we are starting to realise the effects of replacing physical interaction with virtual ones. 

For a long time brands have focused on the same drivers that are behind the convenience economy; efficiency, profit and optimalization. Even though these are not necessarily bad values to pursue, more and more people are looking for brands to make a meaningful difference. A recent report bij Havas found that 73% of consumers expect brands to act now for the good of society and the planet. What that means for your brand could be anything, but it is always valuable to assess the flip side of the values you instil in society with your products and services.

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Image credits: Paolo Feser