“Social media are tools. Real time is a mindset”- David Meerman Scott
Immediacy seems to be the new normal in almost every aspect of modern life. Every so often my Twitter feed displays a rant about the quality of a product or service in a rapid succession of five to ten angry tweets. A lost piece of luggage, a missed connection, a foreign data service fee tend to be triggers for such cyber rants—but airlines and cell phone carriers are not the only industries exposed to the social media wrath of disgruntled customers. Any company today can have their flaws, mistakes and occasional not-so-user-friendly policies exposed through social media. It is as much so that a new breed of companies has risen, like Sparkcentral , which provides solutions for high-volume customer service over social media.
This is happening not just in light of Twitter and Facebook’s popularity and availability; it is happening because we are becoming a real-time society. Our expectation is that everything—every single piece of information—is available almost instantly.
We can reply to e-mails anytime, from everywhere in the world, and we expect a response nearly immediately. We’ve turned email into real-time chat. We now can listen to a new song at a bar or restaurant, identify it via Shazam, and buy it in less than a minute. We can deposit checks to our bank account by taking pictures of them with our smartphone. We can transfer money via e-mail or SMS. We can watch an entire season of House of Cards at our own pace, whenever, wherever. We can admire a work of art, take a picture of it, and Google Goggles will provide us with all the information we need about the piece. Boy! I miss the old days when the person with the most convincing argument would end up prevailing over a trivial discussion. Now we have Google, and the answer is right there at our fingertips.
But it is not just about information being readily available; the expectation is starting to cross over to the physical world. eBay recently launched eBay Now , which delivers products from local stores in New York City and San Francisco in about an hour. A startup company called Perch has created an interactive display technology designed for use in retail spaces. I saw their technology in a shoe display at a Nordstrom store near my home, and it is amazing; the moment you lift a shoe from the table, it starts to display information about the shoe, combining the benefits of online shopping with the unique experience of retail shopping.
The most dramatic example on how this immediacy is crossing over to the physical world came to me when I ran into the “Download this thing button” while browsing through Thingiverse.com , a website by the makers of Makerbot, the “prosumer” 3D printer. Thingiverse is a design community for discovering, making, and sharing 3D-printable things; the site allows you to submit or download the files with the designs to make things at home. The possibilities are endless with a 3D printer at home: Your lawn mower breaks due to a broken part; you can download the file and print the spare part at home. Pottery Barn comes out with a new line of coasters and napkin holders; you can go to an iTunes-like store, and download the files to print the entire collection at home. Need a vase for an extra flower bouquet? Just print it—immediacy at its best!
The expectation of the modern-day consumer is that everything can be solved immediately, and not just when it comes to information. This is the dawn of the Now Economy.