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Doing Business in the US: The Importance of the Convenience Factor

Understanding the importance of convenience is crucial for anyone who wants to do business in the United States. It is a major factor in how people make decisions, and it affects how you as an entrepreneur or business must operate to be successful here.


Drive Thru written on pavement

Convenience: A Core American Value

 

The other night, it was probably around 10 p.m., I went online to look for a product on Amazon. My search was successful and when I checked out a little while later, I was given several delivery windows. One of them was “Overnight delivery between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.”.


woman with cell phone, next to her is a small grocery cart with online shopping boxes

I would be able to push the “place order” button, go to sleep, wake up in the morning, and have the product on my doorsteps before I even had my first cup of coffee, less than 10 hours from the moment I hit send. How convenient - but also a bit crazy.


Now, to be clear: whether you’re going to be successful in the US or not is not determined by swift product delivery - at least not by it alone. It is, however, crucial to recognize the importance of convenience on various levels.

 

In an essay written several years ago, James Farrell, Professor of History and American Studies at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, describes convenience as a core American value. He calls it an “operative value” that runs deeper than most of the values Americans avow. That means that even though people may not include convenience when asked to list the values important to them, it is an underlying force that determines how they make everyday decisions.


In the US, Convenience Sells

 

The first things that come to mind when we talk about convenience are things like fast-food restaurants and convenience stores open 24/7, the multiple rows of frozen or pre-prepared meals in supermarkets, coffee-to-go in paper cups, meal delivery to our doorstep, or the availability of streaming services anywhere and anytime. Here are a few more common things you'll find in the US:

  • Drive-throughs from pharmacies, to banks, to cleaners. All of them allow you to get things done without having to get out of your car.

  • Telehealth, so you can speak with a doctor via an app. You can get a diagnosis and a prescription without having to visit the doctor’s office.

  • Rental apartments outfitted with washer, dryer, and ceiling lights, so you can quickly and easily move in and out. Many even offer additional amenities for your convenience, such as doorstep trash collections or onsite gyms.

  • New homes sold in move-in condition, with fully equipped kitchens including appliances so you don’t have the hassle of choosing a kitchen and waiting for it to be installed before you can move in.

Valet parking sign on the side of the road
  • Valet parking services at restaurants, shopping centers, and entertainment venues. This way you won’t have to search for a parking space a distance away but can get out of and back into your car right in front of the restaurant, mall, or concert hall entrance.

  • Curbside shopping. Many stores give you the option to order a product online, drive up to the store two or three hours later, and have a store employee bring the item right to your car.

  • Convenience services, such as lawn maintenance, cleaners, food delivery, and ride-share. And, yes, there are also dog poop scooping services that will remove your pet's waste from your backyard.


Convenience is not cheap. I just came across a report that cites the following survey results from 2021: 74% of adults (184.4 million) in the US spend $4,073 a year on conveniences like subscription boxes, food deliveries and ride-sharing. That means that Americans spend three-quarters of a trillion dollars each year on making their lives more convenient.


Five Key Elements of Convenience


The concept of convenience combines a few different but overlapping elements. For my German-speaking readers it is also quite interesting to know that there is no one word in German that captures all of them, the same way that convenience does.

 

1.     Ease of access and flow. 

A convenience store, for example, offers easy access to basic food and beverages because it has extended opening hours. In addition, it is often in a favorable location, maybe right next to a gas station at an intersection. A website offers easy access to knowledge or advice when it has a logically flowing page structure. Visitors can navigate the pages and access the information with little effort.

 

2.     Ease of use. 

It’s not difficult to do or handle. A frozen meal offers convenience because you only need to put it in the microwave for two minutes before you can eat it. You don’t need any special skills to handle the product. An app is easy to use when its features are intuitive and require no advanced technical skills. Usage is free of unnecessary complications.

 

3.     Comfort.

Comfort is about physical and mental ease. It means that things are not too strenuous or hard to do (so it overlaps with ease of use). It can also mean that you don’t have to leave a comfortable place, like your couch or your car, to do it. Or you don’t even have to do it yourself but can let someone else do it for you. For example, you don’t do your own grocery shopping, but you order your groceries online and have them delivered to your home.

 

4.     Speed. 

Convenience goes hand in hand with speed. As such, it is closely linked to another key American value: time. Time is money and convenience is about saving time. If you pick up a meal on the way home, you save yourself the time it takes to shop and cook. Search engines on your computer allow you to find information in seconds. That’s much faster than going to the library and looking for books.


Piece of paper with the word inconvenient. There is a cut between in and convenient.

5.     Control. 

Sometimes convenience may only be perceived. Imagine booking a vacation online. You find it convenient, because you can easily do it yourself, on your phone, and from your couch. It’s not hard to do and there are many different apps for it. As we all know from experience, though, doing your own booking can take much more time and effort than asking a travel agent to do it for you. The perception of convenience can be due to the feeling that you have control over the process.

 

Convenience means that easy is good, easier is better, and easiest is often considered best.


The Impact of Convenience on Doing Business

 

Convenience has an impact on people’s buying decisions. It guides their consumption and usage patterns. It influences which brands they like. What’s more, it trumps what people openly declare as their preferences. Someone who enjoys cooking and prefers a home-cooked meal may still pick up fast food on the way home from work because it’s more convenient.


How does the expectation of convenience affect you as an entrepreneur or business operator? Here are a few key areas:

 

  • Product access and availability: How easy is it for your customers to find your product online and in stores? How quickly are your products or services available for delivery? What are your shipping speeds?

  • User-friendliness: How easy is your product or service to use? Can people easily understand the solutions you’re offering? Is your product or service efficient and free of hassles for all your target groups? Is the convenience you offer inclusive?

  • Service accessibility: How quickly can you repair a broken product? How easy is it for customers to return the product or cancel the service if they don’t like it? How quickly can you replace a product?

  • Marketing: How easy are you making it for your customers to notice you and your easy-to-use solutions? What are you doing to bring your product or service closer to your target groups - physically and psychologically?

  • Communication: How do you communicate with your partners? How do you reach out to your target groups? Is your communication adjusted to their needs and expectations? Are you able to explain complex ideas or processes in clear and simple terms?


Convenience in Communication

 

Convenience has an impact on communication in various ways, starting from the channels you use to the words you choose and the messages you craft to the speed at which you react and respond to requests. To communicate effectively with people, you must understand their mindset, their expectations, and their preferences. You cannot assume that what works in your home market works in the United States. This is where I can help you!

 

If you would like to gain deeper insights into US mindset and culture, into market expectations and preferences, and into effective communication strategies and skills, contact me. I would be happy to speak with you at your convenience! Simply click the button below to complete the contact form.





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