The Next Big Market: (Nearly) Instant Gratification

Americans are getting lazier. We no longer put up with hailing a taxi, but tap some buttons on our phone to summon one. We no longer bother studying a map for a short time, but assume our phones' GPS will guide us with little thinking on our part. We no longer bother making a playlist, because our digital music provider of choice will have curated several for us, as long as we listen to a few ads. But don't worry -- we can get even lazier.

And this isn't a bad thing! Laziness brought us to horses, to cars, and to planes. Laziness makes our lives more comfortable and easier. And when a company accelerates this type of change, it provides real value.

For instance, is there some physical object that you need in the next hour, but you don't want to move farther than to your front door? Well, you're in luck. Welcome to the next defining "retail" experience, where shopping online doesn't mean waiting a few days for your package, but just a few minutes.

Super-local, super-quick, super-lazy
Companies have taken note that it's always a good business idea to make things simpler and less of a hassle. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) offers same-day delivery if you're close enough to the warehouse that has your item. Google  (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) launched Google Shopping Express in the Bay Area, allowing customers to order an item from Walgreen's, TargetWhole Foods, or even Guitar Center and get it the same day at no shipping cost. eBay  (NASDAQ: EBAY  ) just purchased Shutl, a courier start-up that delivers items in 90 minutes in Manhattan and Chicago. This complements eBay Now, which operates in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, with a host of retail partners.

But it's not just giant tech companies that are exploring this market. Wal-Mart  (NYSE: WMT  ) offers Wal-Mart to Go in select cities, with the most recent addition in Denver. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart floated the idea of "crowd-sourcing" local deliveries. Whether this was an attempt to use a buzzword or an actual plan remains to be seen, with such an idea apparently in "the brain-storming stage," but the gist is that customers would deliver items to online shoppers in exchange for a discount on their bill.

There are also a host of small start-ups looking to capitalize on quick deliveries for a small fee. Postmates, TaskRabbit, and Instacart are just a few such services.

Of course, many of these operate at a loss. There were plenty of delivery services that failed during the dot-com bubble. As Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said about grocery delivery service AmazonFresh, "The reason it's a test is because we're still tinkering with the business to try to make the economics acceptable." Big tech companies have plenty of cash to throw at such a losing business to test it out. As do start-ups that are flush with venture capital.

The stakes
These services will definitely fragment the retail experience, splitting us consumers into those who actually go to a store and those who can throw a few more bucks down to stay in our pajamas. A study by Boston Consulting Group found that only "affluent millennials" were excited by same-day delivery, and based on this, pegged the market at a high of $850 million. But tastes and preferences change. No one knew why they needed an iPad instead of using their computer or phone, but 100 million have been sold. But even if the market is that small, any company that sells something doesn't want to lack such a feature. It will soon be expected that ordering online will come with the option, albeit at a premium, to receive it in a few hours. If a business can't match that expectation, it may not be prepared for whatever comes next, like instant friends, instant live music, or instant marriage certificates or divorces.

We're lazy, and getting lazier, and some businesses are bound to make money off this trend.

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