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By Kate Ashford

Online delivery isn’t what it used to be.

“Ten years ago, if you bought something online, you were just happy that it arrived,” says Brian Rimmer, managing director of customer experience for consulting firm Slalom, in New York City. “Now you want minute-to-minute status and you want to know if it will show up in a day or less.”

For many people, this culture of immediacy is exciting and helpful—a kind of extreme convenience. But for small businesses, expectations of prompt service can create a demand that’s difficult to meet, particularly when so many large companies are already delivering.

As the use of the internet has spread, and the technologies available to companies to do business online and globally have become more sophisticated, people now expect to be able to get whatever they want, whenever they want it.