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The Culture of Instant Gratification and the Online Economy

The Culture of Instant Gratification and the Online Economy

The Culture of Instant Gratification and the Online Economy

The software and gaming industries have had to learn quickly how to satisfy customers’ need for

instant gratification. James Gagliardi, Vice President of Product and Innovation at Digital River , shares some of those learnings and explains how other retail sectors can benefit too.

We have become consumers of instant gratification – and we are willing to pay a premium to get it. It’s instant gratification that is driving tourists to pay more for a FastPass at Disney World so they don’t have to wait in line. And it’s why Amazon shoppers are willing to pay an annual membership fee to get faster shipping and instant access to their favourite movie titles. Instant gratification, however, is not only driving what we buy, it’s also influencing how we buy – and it has become a formidable force in shaping the online economy.


The online shopping and buying experience is evolving into a multichannel, multi-device experience that is quick, seamless, convenient, personalized and localized. Because customers don’t want to wait in line at a store or sit at a computer to shop for something they need, it’s no surprise that one of the biggest drivers of change in the past several years has been the obsession with connected and mobile devices.

This obsession is redefining virtually every industry and opening up new service, delivery and product opportunities. The way products and services are purchased and paid for is changing. Physical goods will be less about moving a product from point A to point B and instead translate to sending information digitally to 3D printers for creation. Instead of one-time payments to purchase goods and services, revenue will be generated after the sale of products through subscription models, usage based billing and other digital business models. Companies that supplement their physical product portfolios and buying experiences with digital options will reap the benefits of this shift.


Digitally delivering goods into the hands of consumers is a strategy that many companies are using to cater to the instant gratification culture. Software companies began mastering this move in the early 2000s – shifting from physical disks to digital downloads and making the download experience fast and seamless. So, what can other companies in other markets learn from the software industry?

One of the industry’s secrets to success was to focus on logistics, locating data centres around the world in close proximity to their buyers in order to streamline and simplify the download and content streaming processes.

The data centres were built to accommodate heavy volume and spikes in traffic that typically happen around major product launches or the holidays. Another lesson can be found in the area of fraud prevention. Sophisticated fraud detection technology was put in place to actively manage software licenses and provide a way to disable a key in case fraudulent use of the product was detected.


Another industry that mastered instant delivery of their products is the game industry. In-game commerce has propelled instant delivery to an entirely different level so game developers can offer players a frictionless in-game experience where time and speed is everything.

Instead of one large upfront purchase, game publishers are making games available for free or a small upfront charge with hundreds of micro-transactions. In-game commerce is designed to fulfil spontaneous desire to purchase items that would help a player accomplish a mission in the game at that particular moment. Game publishers have rich insights into individual players, including their entire profile, which products would be most helpful during their game play, time spent in the game and available funds.

All of that information is used to offer a limited set of the most relevant items that a player can purchase with a single click. This insight also allows for the game publishers to incentive users that have either given more time or money to playing the game, so they are rewarded by giving the user more virtual currency to continue playing the game. This concept can be applied beyond the games industry.

The idea of only seeing the most relevant products based on personal preferences and history can lead to a much more targeted and personalized ecommerce experience for shoppers. A common practice in gaming is to offer a wallet solution to make a single-click (or touch)in-game purchase possible. Real-world currency is not the only way to get ahead in a game. Game publishers offer rewards in the form of virtual currency for time spent in the game and achieving certain milestones and publishers are now looking to extend this in-game currency across other games in their product suites.

This would enable a gamer to use the virtual currency they earn in one game across other games that they play. More parameters need to be set to balance points that are easier or more difficult to get in different games and there are some logistics that are yet to be figured out, but the ability to use virtual currency across a game publisher’s suite of products will extend the life and value for a particular gamer as they move on to play different games.

Gamification models, however, don’t just belong to the games industry. They can be applied across a multitude of markets. Customers can be rewarded for spending a certain amount of time actively browsing a retailer’s or a manufacturer’s site, purchasing certain products or interacting with the brand on social media. Some items in the store may become available only to those super shoppers who have earned loyalty and rewards points. This would create some additional excitement around products that are hard to get or offered at a significant discount that is only available for those super shoppers.


Instant gratification has not only created an obsession with connected and mobile devices, it’s also driving the adoption of other smart objects. According to some industry predictions, it won’t be long before all things will become smart objects and contribute to what could be a $300bn category.

Companies are taking steps to embed sensors, trackers and other smart devices to keep track of product usage. Insurance companies were among the early adopters of embedding smart devices that track a driver’s activities to reward them for good driving habits with insurance discounts.

In the future, online merchants will collect and analyze data to discern shopping patterns that have predictive value and to understand consumer experiences in digital and physical contexts. Fitness equipment manufacturers, for instance, have begun to link their products with smartphone apps, providing users with long-term analytics on their heart rate activity, running distances, speed, calories burned and other training metrics.

Their users benefit from the digitally enhanced experience, and the data they create also provides usage insights that inform product design and ecommerce strategy. Data will be the driving force for capturing more customers, upselling to existing customers and retaining them for the long term.

The underlying tools for the management of this data will only grow smarter, faster and more affordable as companies catch up with an overabundance of data. The demand for instant results is seeping into every corner of life. As companies continue to experiment and adopt new technologies that cater to the culture of instant gratification, it will take the whole notion of convenience to new heights.

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