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November 26th, 2018

Welcome to the Time Economy // Part I

BY Stoke Strategy

In 1950, 75% of the world lived in extreme poverty. Today it’s less than 8%. World NGOs report that famine, war, dictatorship, and disease are in rapid decline – while literacy, health, communication, and equality are proliferating. In a remarkable triumph for humankind, living standards across the globe are stratospherically better than they were even just 20 years ago. Ordinary citizens are more reliably fed, suitably clothed, reasonably sheltered, relatively comfortable, historically prosperous, and ubiquitously informed and entertained. 

But ask anyone – what do they still need more of?

Time.

We can increase our output to raise our wages, access endless information, and choose from a vast array of consumer choices. Yet our time remains constant. And driven by a sense of scarcity – increasingly valuable.

So, the challenge for product and service marketers is to focus innovation on creating new value: Making more out of time. 

Over the past year, the team at Stoke has grappled in behavioral economics, strategy and design to understand the relationship between companies, consumers, and their time. 

We call this dynamic the “Time Economy.” 

Are consumers, in fact, facing time scarcity? A study by the Henley Centre reports that 41% of consumers believe time to be their most precious resource, versus 18% who believe money is their most precious resource. The reasoning is sensible: We feel we can do more with a day off than a day’s pay. People cherish the incalculable value of memories created by having time – more than the fleeting satisfaction of purchasing goods with money. 

Some economists argue that consumers in fact have more disposable time on their hands today than ever before. In the technological age, most workers in developed economies work fewer or more flexible hours than our predecessors, and in less physically demanding jobs. So not only are most less exhausted from work, more have the economic means to buy timesaving goods and services. We let Roomba vacuum, shop online or “make dinner” with pre-made meals. Although modern families complain that there’s never enough time in the day, we’ve comfortably absorbed time-sucking routines for Netflix and social media that simply didn’t exist a few short years ago.

Regardless of actual hours, the mere perception of “time hunger” is the engine of consumer desires – and a golden opportunity for marketers.

Consider the value you place on time. Let’s say you were given two choices: 

a) Live an extra year longer

-or-

b) Have an extra hour per day with no additional obligations 

Interestingly, in a recent Stoke study, 5 out of 6 people leap to the dividend of an extra daily hour. But is that smart? 

Given there are 8,760 hours in a year, it will take a person 24 years to earn that time, at a rate of one hour per day. With a US median life expectancy of 78.75 years – anyone under the age of 54 years and 9 months, choosing an extra hour, is – mathematically – giving up part of their life! You can pause to argue the quality of life in an added, though aged year. But the response for most is more instinctive than reasoned, reflecting the pressures they feel for time: Now!

In the coming weeks, we’ll explore other aspects and implications of the Time Economy:

– How Design is the currency of the Time Economy.  
– How Amazon is obsessively (and amazingly) using time as the engine of competitive advantage. 
– How designing time becomes a catalyst for innovation and growth.