Fast delivery myth: why ecommerce customers will wait, and wait, and wait…


When your customers become invested in the story behind your product, they are more willing to be flexible with their expectations for delivery. Amazon has groomed us into expecting nothing less than 2-day delivery, in most cases. But if your customers feel seen and heard, become attached to your brand, they may wait for weeks, even months. Is your product story worth the wait? Question the assumption that your customers require fast delivery.

Amazon sets the standard for fast delivery in online order fulfillment. They continue to invest in this, as it’s well established that customers require fast delivery. Right?

Actually, it’s a mistake to conclude that customers won’t wait for slow delivery. Yes, people wait in certain circumstances. And they’ll wait longer than conventional wisdom predicts!

Hi, I’m Patrick Pitman and want to talk about the myth that customers won’t wait for slow delivery.

Why? When? For what will they wait?

Understanding the answers to these questions, and in what circumstances they’re true, can transform how you communicate — even if you aim to never keep your customer waiting…

Some time ago I got inside a jewelry and home goods brand. It had an old-fashioned air, some might call it ‘Old World elegance.’ I hustled through upgrading inefficient, insecure, often paper-based systems for order fulfillment and customer relationship management. Their old systems, hah! As the tech-savvy American, I taught them words like API and PCI.

As this company aimed for a presence in the American market, I insisted Americans require immediate delivery, conditioned by Amazon expectations.

And yes, as first-time customers found the new website, there would be examples of this. Some reacted with anger when delivery did not match expectations. But many, many did not. Many more waited weeks, months to get their order.

I did not understand how this could be until I witnessed the face-to-face customer encounters of this company’s patriarch on the sales floor. He engaged customers at his shops and shows such that they felt seen and heard.

But before I say more about that, I want to describe what characterized those who would not wait: people who were transactional in their orientation. These were first-time customers with a short period of acquaintance.

Maybe they saw an ad in a magazine, made a cursory check of the website, and ordered. They assumed by appearances the company was large, the manufacture was mechanized, the fulfillment impersonal. They just liked the at-a-glance look, or needed a quick gift.

These are all common characteristics of new customers, and your business cannot ignore them. There’s more to say about this in another video…

But let’s consider the rest, the customers who did wait weeks or months. What explains their patience, their longing, their expectation of something wonderful?

Such people related to the brand, to its personalities, to the promise of participating in it. They ordered again and again. Whether or not they had encountered someone personally in the company, face-to-face, they acted as if they had done so. This is a credit to the brand’s authentic appeal.

Those who had engaged the patriarch would wait the longest. The human connection he made transformed the experience of ordering from a transaction into a special event.

His mastery of the face-to-face encounter began with a collecting of the eyes. No child, nor adult, could pass by if he sought out their eyes. A master at extending an invitation, he could enlarge a curiosity into arranging conversation. This became a story, just for you.

Now, you may never want to keep a customer waiting. But consider what you might also aspire to from this example.

Imagine how it might be for your customers to feel a similar longing, an expectation of something wonderful? What might you communicate with that kind of intention? How might you connect at this human level of relationship?

Get that right, and your customer’s experience will be made even more special if you deliver their order promptly, using the best technology money can buy.

Updated: May 3, 2024
Published: December 11, 2018

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