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Zero Work

​By Bruce Horovitz

Lazy used to be just a four letter word. It meant the person being tagged as “lazy” probably had the energy equivalent of a wart hog. But today, lazy no longer means shiftless. Toa new generation, the word often means techno- logically savvy. It means cool.

Here’s how seriously the definition of lazy has evolved.

Think of the single laziest moment in your life. I know mine: It was nearly a decade ago, when we took our first, big family trip to California. After a particularly grueling day at the San Diego Zoo, we ended up poolside at our ocean-facing Sheraton— alternately switching between the Jacuzzi and the pool. My exhausted wife, two daughters and I placed a cell phone call to Domino’s from the Jacuzzi, and literally had them deliver the pizza to us Jacuzzi-side. That’s right: We ordered, received and ate our family dinner in a hot tub. Hold the bubbles.

Domino’s tech gurus have since created a way to help folks be infinitely lazier. Sure, you can still slump in the hot tub and scarf down your pepperoni pizza. But these days, you don’t even have to make the phone call. All you have to do is open up Domino’s new “Zero Click” app, and the food is ordered automatically—you don’t even have to click.

I call it Lazy 2.0. Domino’s calls it Zero Click. And Dennis Maloney, chief digital officer at Domino’s, has his own definition for it: conscious consumer coddling through technology. “I’m not sure that my first reaction would be to call it lazy,” says Maloney. “I think it’s about how this generation understands what’s possible using technology.”

Millennials have high expectations of the brands and businesses with which they interact—particularly technological expectations, Maloney says. The customer expects retailers to use the information that they supply about themselves to make the experience as smooth and seamless as possible. “They know what is possible and you have to find ways to deliver it,” he says.

For Domino’s, Maloney says, Zero Click rep- resents the “culmination” of a multiyear, technological journey. Way back in 2013, Domino’s launched “Easy Order,” which refined the pizza ordering experience down to five clicks. At the time, it seemed like the epitome of consumer convenience. Now, along comes Zero Click. When the app is opened, the saved “Easy Order” is automatically reordered without so much as a tap, swipe or click. And if the app opens by accident, not to worry: You have 10 seconds to close it without the order being placed.

Somebody must like it. The app’s been live since April, and already it’s the pizza chain’s third most-used ordering platform, Maloney says.

Others are paying attention. Nespresso recently began hawking a $299 coffee maker that encourages especially lazy caffeine addicts to brew their next cup of coffee from the comfort of their couch. With the so-called Prodigio machine, the touch of a finger on a companion app (iOS or Android) will remotely set the brewing in motion. “Innovation and convenience are core elements of the Nespresso business,” understates Claire Cloatre-Vinzant, head of marketing machines at Nespresso.

In a new world of instant eats, common eatables that aren’t particularly convenient are starting to fall from millennial favor.

Take cereal. Cereal behemoth Kellogg repeatedly reports declining cereal sales. It’s not that folks don’t like eating cereal; it tastes just fine. Apparently all the “work” involved is the put-off, says consumer research firm Mintel, which reported that 40% of millennials found cereal to be an “inconvenient” breakfast choice, in a recent survey. Why? Well, Mintel reports, it’s because consumers complain that they have to clean up after eating it.

Ditto for desserts. Last year, a survey from research specialist NPD Group reported that Americans—particularly millennials—are starting to lose interest in dessert, too. Dessert eating is down 15% over the past 10 years, and it’s not because we’re trying to cut back on calories or sugar or other unhealthy stuff. It’s because fixing dessert requires a bit of work, too. “Dessert adds to the effort of making a meal,” explains Harry Balzer, senior vice president and chief industry food analyst at NPD. “You have to prepare it and clean up.”

But sometimes convenience can get too, well, convenient. Just ask Whole Foods. Earlier this year, the organic food chain began selling pre- peeled oranges in individual plastic containers. The naked oranges—actually Sumo tangerines— sold for a hefty $5.99 a pound. A label on the plastic container boasted, “Made right here.”

One savvy shopper tweeted an image of the environmentally unfriendly product for the laziest consumer, with this sarcastic comment: “If only nature would find a way to cover these oranges so we didn’t need to waste so much plastic on them.” Ouch.

It didn’t take Whole Foods long to get the message. While many consumers do appreciate tech advancements that make their lives easier, they don’t so much appreciate convenient offerings that double as environmental time bombs.

“Definitely our mistake,” Whole Foods tweeted after it quickly removed the product from its shelves. “We hear you, and we will leave them in their natural packaging: the peel.”

Bruce Horovitz is a former USA Today marketing reporter and Los Angeles Times marketing columnist. He can be reached at Bruce’s monthly “Endcap” column calls out trends and ideas that should be on your radar as you look to the future.