We talk a lot about value add, but most of that is just marketing. There’s another kind of value add. We can offer people ways to improve their lives. Streamline their routines and reclaim some of what they’ve lost track of in the busyness of modern work life.
We can give them time.
Buying time makes people happier. That’s what the science is telling us. That might mean paying someone else to handle unpleasant, repetitive daily tasks, whether you are hiring a personal assistant or using services like Task Rabbit, DoorDash, or Wag! to outsource everyday responsibilities. It could also mean using an app to skip the line at the movie theater or paying for curated services to avoid the worst parts of shopping. It might mean any number of new ideas and exciting innovations.
What they all have in common is that they ease the pressure of modern life. Both high- and low-paying jobs demand ever-more of our time, pulling us away from personal and family life by demanding that we are always on the clock, that we spend more time commuting, that we channel our energy and focus into work. Over-scheduling and modern management tell us how valuable our time is, leaving us with the impression that we never have enough of it. That feeling of “time pressure” is a major source of stress, and it makes us less productive even as it makes us more anxious, less focused, and less happy. Entrepreneurs are increasingly recognizing the problem of time pressure, and they are finding ways to help us cope.
The research shows that spending money to buy time—paying someone to deliver food, complete household chores, or assist with child or pet care—has a “buffering” effect. It protects us from stress. It helps us feel that we do have enough time, after all. Not only does it actually give us more time in the day, it also serves even more important function of helping us feel relaxed about our schedules.
Time & Stress
The same is true for time-saving products. In one major survey, more than a third of people who bought time-saving apps, services, or devices said the main reason for doing so was not actually to save time. What was it then?
To reduce stress, of course. That’s what buying time is all about: giving yourself a breather from the frantic pace does every day life.
Reduced time pressure also makes it easier to have what is called a “present-time perspective,” which means that you are focused on your immediate situation, rather than on what you need to do next or how your actions are contributing to long-term goals. People with present-time perspectives have an easier time focusing on social relationships, and on the small moment-to-moment successes that are so important to maintaining a positive self-image and a sense of progress.
Time-Saving Products and Solutions
So, buying time makes people happier. In the head-to-head comparisons, time-saving purchases left people happier and more satisfied then other goods and objects. But some companies are ahead of the curve, packaging time-savings into products the consumers were already interested in.
Monthly subscription box services are perfect example, especially those that get it right. Among the earliest and most effective is Dollar Shave Club, which offers razors and grooming products, and uses the tagline, “Shave Time. Shave Money.”
Providers who `have more traditional services can also find ways to incorporate time-saving into their offerings. Movie theaters, for example, increasingly used apps to allow pre-booking and food purchases that include a chance to bypass the normal lines. Automated customer service, through the use of chat bots and similar AI tools, allow customers to have their needs met even during busy hours. And recently, Uber partnered with Spotify to allow passengers to control the music that plays during their rides—which might not seem like time-saving, until you realize the time spent traveling is often time lost. If it can be turned into an enjoyable experience, the value of Uber’s core service increases tremendously.
There is also a more pragmatic side to time-saving services. It is important for companies to start paying serious attention to compensating their employees with time as well as money. Salary and retirement plans are important tools for retention and motivation, but so too are vacations, sabbaticals, flex hours, and opportunity to work from home. Not only did those times savings increase employee well-being, they also boost productivity.
Successful businesses lead the way. In 2020, leading the way means getting creative. Giving your customers chances to simplify and streamline. It means recognizing that all of our lives are getting busier and busier, better managed and better organized, and that right now; what people want most isn’t another product or a slick ad. It’s time.
Every company can find ways to build time-savings into both their product or service and their brand image. Right now, there is no more effective way to show your customers or clients that you value what they value. That you are looking for ways to make their lives better. The research is solid, all the trends are pointing in that direction, and it is clear that buying time is now a major market force.
GlobalData Consumer. (2017, 14 September.) People are buying time saving products to reduce stress rather than to save time. Verdict Media. https://www.verdict.co.uk/people-buying-time-saving-products-reduce-stress-rather-save-time/
Kasriel-Alexander, D. (2016, 31 August). Update on our Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2016: Buying Time. Euromonitor International. https://blog.euromonitor.com/buying-time/
Lévesque, M., & Stephan, U. (2020). It’s time we talk about time in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 44(2), 163-184.
Mogilner, C., Whillans, A., & Norton, M. I. (2018). Time, money, and subjective wellbeing. In E. Diener, S. Oishi, & L. Tay (Eds.), Handbook of Well-Being. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF publishers.
Whillans, A. (2017). Exchanging cents for seconds: the happiness benefits of choosing time over money (Doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia).
Whillans, A. V., Dunn, E. W., Smeets, P., Bekkers, R., & Norton, M. I. (2017). Buying time promotes happiness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(32), 8523-8527.
 Mogilner et al. (2018); Whillans, Dunn, Smeets, et al. (2017).
 Lévesque & Stephan (2020); Whillans (2017).
 Mogilner et al. (2018); Whillans (2017); Whillans et al. (2018).
 GlobalData Consumer (2017).
 Lévesque & Stephan (2020).
 Whillan et al. (2018).
 Kasriel-Alexander (2016).
 Mogilner et al. (2018).