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Redefining our relationship with time




Rob Gear

VitAL Magazine

30 July 2013




From ordering groceries on our morning commute, to booking a holiday in the dentist’s office, today’s increasingly powerful digital devices have made us better able to exploit ‘dead time’ than ever before. As well as allowing us to shop; read the news; and organise our finances on the go, mobile technology has also cut our ties to the office by enabling us to work from anywhere with a network connection.

“So what?” you may ask; and indeed, few of us need to be convinced of the benefits of an ever more connected world. Yet it’s interesting to observe that a common theme underpins all of the new behaviours and interactions enabled by today’s ‘digital normal’: a redefinition of our relationship with time. When pushed, many of us would agree that time is one of – if not the – most precious thing to us. Fundamentally, digital technology provides us with the tools to use our time in different, more productive, and more enjoyable ways.

Waiting for a train? Why not do some shopping, write a report, or book a holiday? Increasingly people tend to gravitate towards the digital experiences and services that save them valuable time or provide an experience that is compelling enough to be worthy of the time investment in it – whether it’s GoCompare or Angry Birds.

The value of time

To date, many organisations have not given a great deal of thought to their customers’ time, how they use it, or how they value it. In future, however, we can expect to see digital businesses paying much more attention to time and embracing new metrics that reflect its true importance – such as the amount of their time that customers are prepared to invest each day in engaging with a particular product, service, or brand.

In recent years is has become even more crucial for businesses to have a brand that customers want to engage and connect with – and soon it will be equally important to provide customers with an experience that either saves them time or allows them to use ‘dead time’ more effectively. People will quickly lose patience with poorly designed services that are difficult, frustrating and take longer than necessary to use.

Quality and quantity

Organisations will also need to think more subtly about different types of time, designing experiences that address both the relatively ‘low quality’ time of the person standing in a bus queue as opposed to the ‘higher quality’ time of someone relaxing in their seat on a long train journey.

Applications that cater to both win the biggest slice of the market – as Amazon has demonstrated with an app that lets customers both purchase on the go with a single click, but also spend hours browsing the latest recommended products and customer views if they so wish.

Ultimately, mobile technology has shifted power to the customer. They have more choice than ever before and their time is valuable and precious, but how will your organisation earn a slice of it?

Rob Gear is an IT expert at PA Consulting Group

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