The fallacy of 'convenience'

  • Robert A. Bergman

    Robert A. Bergman

  • We are not really lazy, just hard-coded to conserve energy

    We are not really lazy, just hard-coded to conserve energy

Updated 3/22/2018 1:48 PM

Since my childhood, the "truths" about so many things have changed. For example, "truths" about diet and nutrition spurred the need for a new food pyramid, and new discoveries about dinosaurs caused museums to rebuild skeletons into poses that were more indicative of their natural stature.

"Truths" that we can apply to business, management and marketing have changed too. Those companies that are attentive to the wealth of emerging research gain new "truths" to overtake competitors and succeed in the marketplace.


One important "truth" that has changed dramatically through research in neuroscience is the fallacy of "convenience."

For decades we have thought that "the more constraints on a consumer's time, the more likely he/she will be to use convenience products." That spurred a landslide of "convenience features" on the products we love and "convenience products" designed to dramatically save time.

However, most studies on "convenience" yield insignificant results or only weak support of that "truth." When evaluated, many so-called "convenience products" did not save any time at all, or worse required more time to perform the same task.

The real reason that some of those products thrive in the marketplace, when they do not actually save time, is quite interesting. It all comes clear through neuroscience.

We are hard-wired to be lazy. Well, not really. It just appears that way.

What appears to be laziness is simply our brains giving unconscious directions to our bodies to behave in the most energy efficient ways to conserve calories and operate most efficiently. This is a feature of our neurology that developed early in our history when food was scarce. We had to conserve energy for the next hunt because our next meal depended on it.

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Studies find that our bodies naturally choose the most efficient way to move in the most energy efficient way possible to limit the number of calories we expend. Our nervous system optimizes our movements, in real time, to use the least amount of energy possible. Moreover, it does this below our level of conscious awareness. This has a lot to do with why it is so hard to keep up with an exercise program.

This "unconscious laziness" also influences how we make decisions … impacting consumer behavior and purchase decision-making.

In essence, we are not really lazy, we are hard-coded to conserve energy … and that means that our neurology will always motivate us to perform tasks in the easiest way possible. In our modern world, that translates for many into the purchase of "convenience products."

The real reason we seek "convenient" is our underlying physiological desire to conserve energy. We seek "convenient" to conserve energy because we are wired to do that. It is an underlying determinant of buying and consumer behavior.

Where "convenience" has become synonymous with saving time. Research now tells us that our subconscious is choosing "easy" rather than "convenient."


The new "truth" is "Easy." "Easy" is about saving physical and mental energy.

"Easy" is the new "Convenient!"

The lessons we can learn from these new "truths" is that companies can be much more successful if they make things "easy" (both mentally and physically) for their prospects, clients and customers.

It is critical to look at every contact point in the customer experience and make it easy for people. Whether it is product packaging, filling in a form, assembly, directions, use of the product, etc., make it easy for people.

If it requires effort, do as much as you can for them. If it requires reading, make a video. I think you get the message. If you do, you will be giving unconscious directions to win more clients and customers.

• Robert A. Bergman is an assistant professor of marketing at Lewis University in Romeoville.

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