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Today’s Consumers Want More:...

Today’s Consumers Want More: Convenience and an Experience

By: Phil Hardwick - December 22, 2023

Business columnist Phil Hardwick says we are seeing more convenience tools in all types of businesses, but consumers want more. We want an experience.

Emma, a mother of four, pulled into the specially marked parking space at her local Kroger and waited in her car. Within minutes, a store employee loaded her grocery order in the back of her vehicle and wished her a good day. She never got out of the car. She had placed her order online, paid for it, and notified the store via a mobile app that she was on her way to pick up her groceries.  That’s just one example of how convenient it is to shop nowadays.

Today’s consumers want more than just a satisfactory transaction. They want convenience. And in some cases, they want more than just a satisfactory transaction. They want an experience. And there is no shortage of companies giving it to them.

In this column, we will examine how several companies are succeeding by offering convenience, an experience, or both.

Convenience can be measured in time and effort. Emma, the customer mentioned above, used to spend considerable effort rounding up her kids and getting them to behave as she trooped up and down grocery aisles in search of products. Her efforts were not only tiring, but because of distractions sometimes produced unsatisfactory results. The grocery store solved her problem. As an alternative, she could have had it delivered.

What’s more convenient than home delivery?  These days, it is hard to imagine anything that one can’t get delivered to the front door. Thanks to the internet and the phone, everything from pizza to books to drug prescriptions can be delivered.  It is probably now possible to live one’s entire life without ever leaving home.  Even if there is a medical emergency the ambulance will come.  And if the resident is on their deathbed, home hospice will be there.  Water can be delivered by pipe or bottle.  One can even work from home via telecommuting.

Fast food drive-thrus continue to increase because of convenience. Traffic in drive-thrus rose 30% from 2019 to 2022, according to food service research firm Technomic. A report from Revenue Management Solutions noted that drive-thrus account for two-thirds of all fast-food purchases. According to the 2022 QSR® Drive-Thru Report, when asked what the top two reasons they choose to order using the drive-thru were, per this year’s study, guests picked “Convenience” and “Speed of Service.” Seventy-eight percent of customers picked convenience as their No. 1 drive-thru draw. QSR is the business-to-business magazine for the limited-service restaurant segment.   Fast-food restaurants seem to be working harder every day to get us through their systems.  We don’t even have to go inside anymore for the fast food; we just use the drive-through window.  And we don’t even have to think about what food item goes with what.  We just give a number for the meal we desire. 

We are seeing more convenience tools in all types of businesses. Some of these include contactless checkout, gift cards, self-serve kiosks, mobile apps, and customer texting messages, to name just a few. Buy now, pay later options, which are now offered at some checkouts, are convenient, but worrying, if consumers are racking up too much debt with this convenience feature.

Convenience is one thing, but consumers want more.  We want an experience.  Starbucks is the poster child for convenience and experience.  It’s not just a coffee shop, it’s a place to sit and write, to have meetings, or to just observe people. Why else would we pay that much for their coffee?   

When it comes to retailers that provide “an experience,” my hat is off to Bass Pro Shops.  It’s no wonder that their stores are so-called destination stores.  People drive from a hundred miles away, not necessarily for low prices, but for the experience.  Customers can find every piece of outdoor merchandise imaginable, plus a giant aquarium, an unexpectedly good restaurant, seminars, celebrity appearances, and much more. 

And then there is Buc-ee’s, a one-of-a-kind gas station and convenience store. Its restrooms are an award-winning place where you can “Potty like a rock star.” In 2025, it will be opening one of its largest stores, a 70,000-square-foot facility, off I-10 in south Mississippi.

Using an experience is also an excellent way to introduce customers to products. The Viking Cooking School in Greenwood offers classes in everything from basic techniques of cooking to baking to ethnic dishes. The experience is tailored to everyone from beginners to experts, families to business executives, and friends and groups. Thousands attend each year. Of course, Viking ranges are featured and their “trained Appliance Specialist would be happy to help you with selecting all the products you will need to complete your dream kitchen.”

So, if you are a business owner, consider ways to provide your customers more convenience, an experience, or both.

About the Author(s)
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Phil Hardwick

Phil Hardwick is an award-winning business columnist and semi-retired economic developer. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at the Millsaps College Else School of Management for many years. He has taught over 1,000 students, written over 800 columns, written 11 books and assisted over 100 communities and organizations with strategic planning. In February 2016 he was inducted as a Lifetime Member of the Mississippi Economic Development Council.