Why’s my food cold?
Recently, Deliveroo introduced a new feature to their app, the ability to pay more for your food to be delivered, exactly how it used to be, except now it costs you £2.49, unless of course you like your food cold, in which case, what they now call ‘Standard Delivery’ will do you just fine.
It took me a minute to realise what was going on here - when I went to order for the first time since this change had been made, the choice lacked an explanation and left a pretty nasty taste in the mouth - ironic. Even now many weeks later, it still bewilders me that a services business would choose to make their service both slower and more expensive, whilst having the gaul to insinuate they now offer a ‘Premium Delivery’ service.
For clarity, there used to be one delivery option in Deliveroo’s app, this option meant your food would be delivered to you by a driver at a flat rate cost, as soon as possible. When Deliveroo introduced their tiered delivery model, they chose to increase the average delivery time for the majority of their customers and subsequently cause lower food quality for customers who wanted to continue using what they now call ‘Standard Delivery’. At the same time they added the option to pay more to have your food come directly to you.
This trade off means that, to get a basic delivery service where your food arrives warm enough to be edible is now inexplicably called ‘Premium Delivery’ for which you pay a premium, whereas if you want your food to arrive tomorrow and obviously, stone cold, then you can opt to use ‘Standard Delivery’ which means your order will more than likely be delivered after several others on the same route.
This is not a rant, this is a trend.
It might seem like it so far, but this is not an aimless rant, despite it having all of the justifications of one. What interests me so much about these terrible product decisions is what they symbolise in relation to the wider trend of selling convenience and how monetising convenience has become a common theme in recent years.
A little history to wet your whistle whilst you wait 4 days for your ‘Standard’ Deliveroo order to arrive. Over the last 20 or so years, product trends and cycles have come and gone. We had the 'household celebrity' push in the mid 90’s, which took form across many sectors including government, with perhaps the most notable example being ‘Got Milk? - an ad campaign that espoused the importance of having dairy in your diet, despite a lack of demand or evidence that milk was even good for you.
This was followed in the 2000’s with trends that focused mainly on tribalism, splitting the average pack of consumers by how products made them appear to others, a notable example being the Mac vs. PC ad campaign that ran from 2006-2009, in which Apple drove interest in their product line by sarcastically comparing the common pitfalls of PC’s to features they thought were better on Macs.
More recently though as we approach the event horizon of the dystopian nightmare that is late stage capitalism, we have seen two primary trends emerge, the oddly large monetary value hidden within hype and clout - think high-fashion brands like Balenciaga, “influencers” etc - and of course the primary focus of this article, the marketability of convenience.
In today’s more modern and developed societies, you can get most things pretty damn quickly and with very little effort, over the last 5 years or so this has meant marketers, product teams and sales as an economic function of big business have shifted towards the less obvious, but very sticky human desire for convenience - to have things now, not later.
Want to watch it right now and can’t wait 2 days?
Bet that you can pay for it.
A regular taxi not good enough?
Pay for Uber Comfort, because your legs suddenly got 2 inches longer and you consider yourself too inconvenienced by standard travel.
Next day delivery?
You lazy bones, what about next day delivery by 11am, what about 9am, what about same day?! Hi it's John from Amazon and I'm in your wardrobe.
Got a regular oven?
You peasant, get an air fryer to cook your food faster with hot air, instead of slower with hot air.
And of course, want your food to be warm?
Upgrade your delivery to ‘Premium’ - which is the same as what ‘Standard Delivery’ used to be but now we’re charging you for it - progressive I know.
The inflection point.
The thing is, I have an air fryer, I use next day delivery (coughs in Prime) and there are a few other services where I will pay for convenience. Convenience isn’t by itself a bad thing, in fact depending on the circumstances, it’s been a highly sought after need for many years. But as with any multi-faceted conundrum where consumer need intersects with business, a clock is always ticking, and then running, and now it’s running out.
Deliveroo - like many others - have crossed a line with their business model, squeezing the very last drips of profitability from the recesses of an already spent system. As we drift father and father from fundamental product value and utility and closer to needless futility and the self indulgence of convenience, businesses large and small - but mainly large - are running low on hot air to sell.
There’s too many quotas to hit and not enough sh*t to sell, so we’ll just package up any old sewage, brand it and sell it, paid monthly of course, we don’t want anyone to actually own anything. Team ARR fo-lyf.
And thus, we approach the singularity.
Most changes in these overarching trends happen this way, after all that which is not profitable shall not reap profit. The death of similar trends happened because they were exhausted, checked out, and ultimately maximised to their largest extent. What was a competitive edge became commonplace, followed shortly after by a race to the bottom.
This I believe is what we’re about to see with the convenience model. Things can only be so convenient, so instantly gratifying, so anxiety suppressing. So this leaves us stood on the precipice of yet another big shift in what can be, but isn’t yet sold as a commodity.
I went looking for some examples to support my theory, which is one that I fear. One that we should all fear. If we have reached the point where products and the ability to access them are at overextended capacity, there isn’t really anywhere to go, or a logical next step that resembles a typical commercial structure.
We sell everything, physical or digital as fast as we can, “so what’s left?” you ask nervously.
How much for your mind, body and soul?
This is where selling becomes not about the product or service anymore, but about maximising profit in areas of your psyche that used to be completely off limits. Capitalising on the nihilistic and apathetic tendencies of both new and existing generations of consumers - one arguably formed by the commercial models which proceeded it - is set to become our next frontier.
Selling nothing, a void with a price tag.
A prime example is Instagram, who recently decided to pivot their criteria based system for becoming a verified user to a subscription model, thus opening a new door - converting narcissism, insecurity and digital social status into profit. Some less empathetic types might be tempted to say it’s a bold and ingenious move, but from where I’m sat this is just more proof we’re at the end of the road for selling convenience. It took us 30 years to reach maximum consumption and only 5 to reach maximum convenience. Now we’re starting to sell vanity, narcissism and the ability to buy a form of identity gratification that has no tangible value.
Many fractals of these models are already around us, the pervasive trend of paid tutorials with ‘experts’ that have little to no practical real-world value has seen a near 100% increase in the last 3 years, alongside increases in selling your body for 2 cups of coffee per month - I can Only imagine these people are Fans of high-cost, zero-value products.
This is only speculation of course, one cannot be afforded hindsight through foresight. But it does seem to me that we are in the convenience endgame, we cannot continue to stretch this model any further, it’s maxed out and so are our attempts to abuse it.
Looks like my order will be arriving in a few hours, so I best dash…