"On Demand" Is In Demand, But What Does It Really Mean?

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By Rafael Ilishayev 

We live in an on-demand world. The way in which we consume, travel and entertain depend on services that give us what we want, when we want it, and how we want it.

On-demand has become the most in-demand industry in the market; involved parties are creeping from "traditional" food and transportation services to businesses offering personal favors and highly specific chores. Need your dog walked? Your car washed? There's an app for all that. But while we know what on-demand services do, do we really know what "on-demand" means?

I thought about this when my co-founder Yakir and I decided to launch goPuff, an on-demand delivery service app, one college night two years ago. All the hoops -- the stores, couriers, online ordering -- we had to go through to prepare a friend's birthday celebration we were hosting that evening were too inconvenient for our lifestyle. We pulled the night off and partied like it was our bar mitzvahs -- not because the services we used were efficient, but because we knew how to innovate.

To do what other on-demand services said they would do but didn't, Yakir and I had to penetrate the real definition of on-demand. What would goPuff require to succeed? What does your business require? What does "on-demand" really mean? Keep these in mind when growing your own on-demand service:

  1. On-demand means variety: It means the ability to choose your favorite brand, customize your order, and not be forced to settle. You cannot assert a service is on-demand if you cannot provide what is being demanded. Investigate your industry and understand the needs of your audience. Make your service distinctive by offering new and existing clientele not just what you know they want, but by offering options they did not expect to be available to them. For goPuff, that meant becoming familiar with our customers' favorite products as well as introducing new products they otherwise wouldn't be able to find in a traditional convenience store.

  • On-demand means now: Not tomorrow, not in an hour -- now. You cannot assert a service is on-demand if you cannot provide what is being demanded when it is being demanded. Do not leave enough space or time for a potential customer to look elsewhere for what he or she believes may be a better option than your service. Maintaining our own inventory in warehouses rather than picking it up from a third party is more difficult and expensive, but it allows for a goPuff customer to receive their order in 30 minutes or less.

  • On-demand means that alternatives aren't an option: Why use a service that isn't the best? Research the competition and create advantages within your own business model that other services won't be able to match. We created an inimitable business model that boasts a $1.95 delivery fee, hours of operation that everyone can enjoy 24/7, and a growth model that allows for a new city to launch every two months.

  • To be the fastest, most affordable and most widely available on-demand service on the market, goPuff had to and still must be revolutionary. It's why we continue to push our delivery times lower and lower, introduced beer delivery via our goBeer retail distributor in Philadelphia last December, and why we, as motivated individuals, often find ourselves even more in-demand than our business is.

    An on-demand revolution doesn't require venture capital or a viral marketing scheme. It simply requires identifying a barrier, finding a way around it, and then overcoming it.

    Find your barrier and break it down. The world demands it.