5 stocks serving our need-it-now society
These companies indulge our desire for instant gratification
Most recently, the big gig is smartphones like Apple's (AAPL) iPhone and Samsung's (SSNLF) Galaxy that put the world at our fingertips. They allow us to get email, check Twitter, snap photos and listen to music on a device we can keep attached to our hips.
Heck, just turn on the TV and you'll see countless ads selling same-day delivery services, five-day weight-loss plans and easy, microwave dinners.
It stands to reason, then, that those companies giving us what we want sooner often do pretty well for themselves. So, let's take a look at five companies that investors have flocked to, because of the popularity of the instant gratification we oh-so desire.
Forget having to go to a library to look things up; the search engine changed all that. Just type in your question -- "Why do chefs wear funny hats?" -- and voila, you get not just one answer, but a whole page of them.
Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo (YHOO) have search engines, too. (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.) But the one that describes the mega-trend of instant information the best has to be Google (GOOG). Its name has even become a verb for searching online. Don't know something? Just Google it!
It's no wonder a few of Google's mottoes mesh with the idea of instant gratification. "Fast is better than slow" and "You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer" are two items on the company's list of "10 things" they know to be true and focus on.
And it's no wonder that Google's stock has been soaring, tripling in the past four years and recently breaking the $900 mark with 27% YTD gains.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
Remember the days where you had to wait in line at Starbucks (SBUX) or Dunkin Donuts (DNKN), or even (heaven forbid) actually brew a whole pot of coffee with filters and all that nonsense? Me neither.
Nowadays, making a fresh cup of coffee simply requires the quick push of a button, thanks to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters' (GMCR) Keurig technology. The machine's "K-cups" allow you to brew a single serving of your favorite coffee, tea or hot chocolate in less than a minute.
In fact, the technology -- which Green Mountain acquired through a buyout -- changed the coffee game so much that it tripled GMCR's stock price in early 2011. Granted, that momentum soon came crashing to a halt amid growing competition like Starbucks' Verismo and others, but Green Mountain has steadied itself since then, and it has nearly doubled so far in 2013.
Another company symbolic of our on-demand society? Netflix (NFLX), of course, which offers ... well, on-demand streaming TV shows and movies.
The company started by dethroning Blockbuster and mailing DVDs to users, but even that has been replaced by instant access via streaming video. This technology led to an incredible run for NFLX stock -- of nearly 450% from 2010 to mid-2011 that brought prices around $300, before changes to its pricing scheme and the Qwikster debacle knocked it off its perch. However, NFLX is back on the rise again, up 150% and sitting near $240.
Of course, Netflix is far from the only name in the on-demand game. Consumers no longer want to wait until 9 p.m. every Monday to watch their favorite show; they'd much rather watch it on their own terms. That's why Amazon (AMZN) Prime offers streaming channels and movies, while Hulu Plus has a similar model.
All that Googling and TV-watching will make you hungry. And if you want food fast, the solution is simple: fast food.
Wendy's gets the overall nod for this one because, out of all the drive-thrus out there, its service is the fastest. A study from late last year showed that the average service time was a mere 129.75 seconds for its drive-thru.
Yes -- just more than two minutes for an entire meal and maybe even dessert. Even the "slowest" company on the list, Burger King, still served customers in less than four minutes.
We also want lots of other things -- clothes, jewelry, vacations, fine dining, trips to the movies and more. But what if we don't have enough cash on hand?
That won't stop us. It's a world of need-it-now, remember?
So, instead of saving up or foregoing such items, why not just put it on your credit card? Visa (V), for one, is the largest payment processor out there, while rival MasterCard (MA) is no small potatoes either.
The average American loves their instant purchasing power so much, in fact, that they've racked up between $7,000 and $8,000 in credit card debt. That number nearly doubles if you look only at households with debt, according to NerdWallet.
Not that Visa and MasterCard are complaining. Americans' spending habits have juiced each of their shares by about 50% annually in the past three years.
As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler was long MCD.
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