There will be a category of software called 'ambient software' in response to screens and apps invading our lives. Services like ScreenTime on iOS are precursors to ambient software. Dark mode is an early form of ambiance that software is expected to provide. The future of ambient software is already unfolding.
The fascinating thing about ambient software is that the users recognized that they are beholden to their phones. Physical stress and mental fog of binge consumption are very evident to us, the users. Makers are taking the cue. It presents an opportunity.
This essay is not about ambient software though. Let's talk about another kind of consumption.
Consumption of things
Unlike Netflix, binge consumption of things does not get our attention.
Minimalism is either hippie culture or one more way for the rich to virtue-signal. The majority of people consume to feel good. Unlike binge-watching or screen pervasiveness consumption of things is multi-dimensional. If you eat a lot, become obese and want to cut down on carbs you could still consume a lot of shoes. There is no such thing called shoe gluttony. You can buy one more piece of furniture or get another bottle of perfume.
One can have a consumption release through multiple outlets - in a mental sense. The only constraint often is money.
That too is solved by economies of scale. Products are available at every price point. It's hard not to consume.
Personal finance is a sign of things to come
Personal finance software was a billion-dollar category in 2019. Honey, the app that helps customers save money while shopping got acquired for $4B. I consider them a 'personal finance' app too.
There are two ways you can save money while consuming.
Buying what you want at a cheaper price
Not buying what you don't want
There are 1000s of apps, services, credit cards, and platform-native pushes (like Prime Day) that help you take the first route.
Marie Kando and the joy of buying overpriced candles
'Not buying what you don't want' is an amazing principle. Yet, there is no capitalistic (ha!) attempt to help people consume less. The efforts, if there have ever been any, are sporadic or downright scammy. Marie Kando told us to keep things that spark joy and throw away everything - except her scented candles that cost a bomb. It sparked joy for her at least. If you leave such laughable and reductive attempts, what's remaining are some fringe shows on Netflix about cabin living.
The latest recovered quote from Albert Einstein strikes a chord. He says, "A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." We are insufferable as humans. We sold the piece of paper with that quote for $1.3M.
The world will see a net-positive outcome if we encourage people to consume less. The way to do that is not by building a cabin in the woods and forming a cult - though, many Gurus have done exactly that and have bought Augusta Westlands for themselves. It's a quick way to get from Point A to Point B to spread the idea of modest living. I give you that!
Ambient Consumption is a *&(&(*(( *))(&. *(*(^* idea
We need a 'Honey app' for ambient consumption.
Compulsive shopaholics and harmless over shoppers alike need some nudges every now and then. Carefully crafted app experiences with APIs to all the points of consumption and consumption history can be the digital equivalent of an 'eye-roll' that our moms give when we take twice the allowed daily allowance of muffins. We have a Cambrian explosion of brands. One does not have to try hard to consume.
I am fascinated by the righteousness of the idea. My eyes go moist by the notion that the firehose of consumption data will not be monetized by pushing more products to gullible shoppers. Nicotine de-addiction is a $7B market. Smoking is a $1 Trillion market.
US consumer spending on discretionary products in Q1 2020 is $14 Trillion. Assuming even if 10% of that is avoidable by a rap in the knuckles, it is a $5.6T market.
If you do the serious non-weekend math, I expect clever entrepreneurs who recognize this to build a multi-billion dollar market that will prevent you from spending $1000. Oh, kill me!
PipeCandy is a market intelligence platform that tracks the global eCommerce & 'direct to consumer' landscape.
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