When a soil consolidates (decreases in volume due to loss of water), it undergoes 3 stages. Immediate or elastic compression, which is the first stage and is due to distortion. Then there is primary consolidation where excess pore water pressures are dissipated as water flows out of the soil. This is the main consolidation phase for cohesive soils. The third stage is creep and is due to a rearrangement of the soil particles, after excess pore water pressures have dissipated.
It may be important depending on the soil characteristics, as while it progresses the soil is still settling. If this is significant (unusual) it may render a structure unusable.