A few days ago, I succumbed to what might be defined as an early-onset middle age crisis and bought me a Japanese knife. A Nakiri knife, to be more precise. A real beauty, with its rugged metal and merciless edge.
Needless to say, I bought it online. I found my perfect match on a rather obscure but specialized Dutch shop. The bottom line: the blade of my dreams will take around one month to arrive to Italy (also because of COVID).
And it struck me: this made me feel good.
The idea of waiting one month for something I want made it feel somehow more precious.
Why was that?
Waiting as a form of good friction
Those among you old enough to have had pen pals back in the days will remember the excitement of receiving a long-awaited letter. Compare it to the indifference that we have for most emails.
This shouldn’t surprise us: friction has been known to add value to experiences and products. One example is the “IKEA effect”: building something yourself – even a basic BILLY shelf – makes it more valuable to you.
I suspect waiting might work the same way. After all, waiting is a form of labor and sacrifice. Ultimately, a form of friction. Waiting for Christmas. Waiting in line for your favorite artist. Waiting for the bread to rise.
Can this apply to delivery, too?
Apparently, this is counterintuitive. Quick delivery is the ultimate battleground for e-shops. The quickest, the better, with Amazon setting impossible standards for everyone. Long waits are so frustrating, aren’t they?
Fast delivery makes sense for functional purchases. If you need loo rolls you are hardly going to enjoy waiting two weeks for them. Same goes for food delivery: you don’t want to eat at midnight.
Not all purchases are strictly functional, though. We say we need a new sweater THIS WEEK but we often don’t. This is especially true for high-value purchases that are expected to serve us for a long time. We are not really in a rush.
Our “frantic life” is sometimes a self-deception.
Amazon and the pitfalls of the Big Now
If you really want something RIGHT NOW, Amazon is your friend. Need a new shower cap? How about getting it today? Your kid just saw a slime toy on TV? Surprise him tomorrow.
This hyper-efficiency has been slowly erasing our capacity for patience. In a way, we are spoiled. What every agency has been telling its clients is that Amazon is “setting expectations” for e-shops across the world. What this means is we came to find intolerable that an e-shop might require three weeks for shipping.
This almost unbelievable rapidity, beyond having clear impacts on the environment and the workforce, contributes to the devaluation of the items sold. What is easy to get, is also easy to dispose of.
By working on the most frictionless experience possible, Amazon has been focusing on convenience, not value. This is reflected by Amazon’s offer, that seems to be getting cheaper by the day.
Do you really like to tell someone you got their present on Amazon? Sounds kind of cheap, doesn’t it? You won’t be exactly ashamed, but you won’t mention it.
While this works well for the global behemoth of Mr Bezos, not all e-shops can and should be focused on convenience.
If a brand is trying to add value to its products, longer delivery times might create a good kind of friction. And in the meanwhile, they might ease the pressure on our planet.
This is but one of the many ways brand can regain control of their customer experience, rather than being just another thing inside an Amazon box.
Involving the customer in the joy of waiting
Of course, customers won’t accept longer delivery times all of a sudden. Reframing the wait might help.
First of all, waiting can be positioned as a sustainable choice. Brands have been successfully charging a premium for more sustainable practices. Waiting a bit longer could rightfully be framed the same way.
Secondly, the wait can be made into a valuable journey. Think of how the advent calendar manages to keep kids hooked to the idea of Christmas for almost a month. Kids!
A brand with a three-weeks delivery time might setup an email automation to send the user extra info about the product. A kind of post-purchase content marketing.
Rory Sutherland’s “Alchemy” gives exceptional insights on how “decorating” the wait is sometimes more effective than reducing it. I think it might not just ease the pain, but create extra value.
Receiving your prized sweater, whisky bottle or – in my case – overperforming japanese knife after a long wait can be a thrilling experience and turn the product into a beloved possession.