A view from William Rowe

Convenience culture is dying: what this means for brands

Consumers now care more about what good brands are doing for the world, valuing ethics and transparency over convenience.

Convenience has been a core foundation of many of the major success stories over the past few years. Industry giants like Uber, Deliveroo and even PayPal have all made serious waves by streamlining customers’ lives. And, being time poor, consumers have flocked to them in droves. They want an experience to be as simple, hassle-free and straightforward as possible, freeing up their time to get on with more important things.

In fact, the convenience mantra has found its way into all areas of media and consumption, from music and video streaming services to retail search and recommendation engines. The emphasis has been on doing as much of the legwork as possible, and handing the consumer what they want on a silver platter. 

However, according to our Audience Report 2016 of 5,000 global early adopters, the prioritisation of convenience is increasingly becoming a double-edged sword. Established services like Uber have become indispensable parts of consumer lifestyles. While they don’t look like they’ll be going anywhere for a while, our audience are beginning to miss the friction and real human experience that comes from solving logistical issues using good old brain power. 

They’re well aware that by living a life where every possible need can be simply and instantly met, they run the risk of becoming lazy and complacent. If you never have to flex your problem-solving muscles, thanks to a culture built around making your life as smooth and stress-free as possible, are you in danger of missing out on the texture of life? Will you stop appreciating things because everything comes so easily? It’s a particularly pertinent thought when you take into account that 83% of respondents to the report stated that they value a product or service more if they have to put in work to receive it.

Our audience is tired of companies constantly vying for their attention, trying to shout the loudest and make the biggest impact. By putting the ball back in their court these consumers are able to seek out and discover products for themselves, rather than have everything paraded under their noses like a poorly timed, all-you-can-eat buffet. 

A desire for genuine, organic discovery has emerged in our audience. They want that feeling of connection that can only come from stumbling across something, or by putting in effort to find it. This element of discovery is hugely important to our respondents. In fact, 77% say being the first to discover something new matters a great deal to them. Spotify or YouTube recommendations are all well and good, but they don’t make for a particularly exciting anecdote of how you first heard about an artist. 

And it’s not just an inundation of convenience that early adopters are looking to move away from. With 71% interested in understanding a brand’s long-term goals, it seems the heyday of heritage has come to an end. They care more about what good brands are doing for the world now and in the future, valuing ethics and transparency as vital considerations for any company.

Seventy-seven per cent of early adopters believe that brands have a moral and social responsibility to make a positive impact on the world, and 83% of this audience strongly believe that brands need to do more than focus on making money if they’re to be a productive and successful brand. So today, avoiding malpractice is no longer enough; brands need to be proactive in their ambitions to improve the world. As the faces of capitalism, big brands are under even greater scrutiny to be forces for good.

With convenience and heritage on the wane in this new world order, brands need to recognise these trends and be savvy as to what this entails for their future marketing efforts. For these consumers, when it comes to matters of the heart – emotional purchases and cultural tendencies – nothing worth having comes easy.

William Rowe is the founder and CEO of Protein