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Retail stores are missing 80% of all potential purchases

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Instant information, instant credit, instant connection, instant stuff on my doorstep.

Like interactivity, mobile, and "smart" technologies before it,  "instant access" is becoming a consumer expectation, and it's expected to be worth billions.

dscout recently led a study to discover what might happen when people can instantly purchase and receive almost anything in the very moment they most need it. Over four days, we collected 486 of those moments. 


The dscout research team started with a "mental prop" -- a "magic button" to help participants recognize and express when they had an urgent but unfulfillable want or need. Participants imagined the Record button on their mobile phone video camera was a magic button that could instantly purchase and deliver any product or service not otherwise unavailable to them in that moment.

Researching behaviors in unidentified, unexpected, real-time situations is even more complicated. 

Typical tools of the research trade -- interviews and observation -- fall short in those scenarios. Researchers can't be everywhere, all the time, and even if they were, they would probably get in the way. And participant recall? Rarely comprehensive or accurate.  Thus the researchers relied on the mobile phone's near omnipresence in participants' lives.

“It turns out that when you don’t confine your participants to a lab, with only their memory to work with, they’ll show you some fascinating parts of their day-to-day life,” said research lead, Jaymie Wahlen. 

To keep research results relevant, Wahlen said, the "magic" powers of the button were limited to items actually for sale, somewhere, and which participants could pay for with their own bank account. Need an Advil while stuck at your kids' oboe concert? No problem. Need an anvil in your backyard, stat? Um, sure ... you could get that, too. But, no orders for Chris Hemsworth or clones. No flight to Westeros nor Bugatti to take your kids to school.

Is an Anvil a Need? Or a Nice-to-Have?

dscout's study results showed 486 "magic button moments" submitted for an array of products and services, from diapers and a new driveway, to a nanny and Hamilton tickets.

“One woman had an urgent need for an anvil. That’s kind of a long story,” Wahlen joked.

Groceries, health and beauty, home supplies, and services topped the list of “need it now” categories.


People reported that despite the lack of the magic button, they would purchase 20% of items they wished for ASAP. After all, when you need toilet paper right now, you will still needtoilet paper once you can actually get to the store. The need is real and irreplaceable.  

On the flipside, 80% of products and services needed would not be purchased any time soon because: no button.  Plans for a delayed purchase plan, or a total lack of purchase intent,  included: the need was short-lived, it was deemed not truly a need after all, the need was found to be easily remedied another way, or the specific purchase required more thought. 

Breaking down the 80%: 

About 50% of magic button moments were expected to lead to a purchase at some point in the future. Those items represented a longer-term need. (e.g., Toilet paper is running low, but not entirely gone. It would be nice to get the purchase taken care of now, and eventually you will.)

About 30% of the magic button moments would not lead to a purchase at all. For these products and services, participant said they would probably not make the purchase because the magic button concept had been integral to the purchase consideration (ex: Your house needs to be cleaned, and you'd sure like it done now. But absent a housecleaner ringing your doorbell right now, you'll just clean it yourself.)

The Five Types of “Now” Moments

Across the 486 moments, dscout researchers noted recurring themes around the perceived urgency of a need, and whether it was fleeting. Ultimately, they identified five modes according to purchase motivation: Stock, Seek, Save, Spoil, and Serve.


As more brands dip a toe into the on-demand pool, "immediacy" is becoming a business norm.

If you are interested in learning more about this study, please reach out to us for a demo or read more about our findings in the attached PDF.

Supporting Documents

This content was provided by dscout. Visit their website at

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Chicago, Illinois, United States of America
Telephone: (312) 880-9715
About dscout: Dscout’s research platform captures the reality of users' in-the-moment behaviors and thoughts through mobile video, image, text, and survey feedback.