Huggies Dash Buttom

Amazon’s Dash Button and the Internet of Shopping

Huggies Dash ButtomWe’ve been hearing for years about how the internet would keep track of the refrigerator and let us know when we need milk and eggs. Now it is finally coming, as should surprise no one, from Amazon. The question is, will imposition of what we’ll call the Internet of Shopping be worth it to anyone?

Amazon started this approach  with the Amazon Dash, a camera and microphone-equipped device that used a WiFi connection to order goods from AmazonFresh, the grocery store-by-truck being offered in selected cities. But the Amazon Dash Dot, for which an Amazon Prime consumer can submit an advance order, is both a more complex and simpler service.

The button is linked to a specific product, at the moment at least from a collection of massive consumer companies such as General Foods, Kraft, and Procter & Gamble. Stick the 2″ by 1/2″ Button to a surface. When you are running short on Tide Pod detergent, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, or Kraft Easy Mac Cups, the Button sends a WiFi signal to an iPhone, Android phone or a PC to generate an order to Amazon.

Once the Amazon Internet of Shopping device starts shipping in volume it is likely to do well. The Dash button will be easily available to anyone–it can be had by any purchaser for no cost and is likely to become popular.

Dash Button products Assuming that the button works as expected, and that seems like a realistic expectation, its real significant will be its economic potential. Amazon, starting with taking over the book business, has had a significant impact on a considerable variety of products.

In our house, we order lots of stuff from Amazon, at least enough that we get a delivery nearly every day. We’ve essentially replaced drug store purchases with Amazon, in large part because our neighborhood CVS is a pain of a store. But we–and by this I mean my wife, Susan, who does most of the ordinary shopping–still buy most basic home products in supermarkets. We want to buy our own fresh food (AmazonFresh is not an option here yet, though PeaPod or Safeway deliver) because we want to check out quality, availability and price. I personally prefer hitting the H Mart Korean store for produce and seafood.

The Dash button could make the Internet of Shopping a winner for both Amazon and consumer product makers. Amazon, of course, would increase its sales if the button succeeds. And product makers lock customers into the brand for which they have a button; it’s likely to get an order for needed detergent with Tide, dissuading customers from taking advantage of an in-store special. Products with firm customer loyalty for the brand, such as toiletries and cosmetics, are likely to do best.

I suspect the Internet of Shopping is likely to do best among relatively well-off families. Of course, the option only works when you have a WiFi connection at home, but that comes close to 100% when you eliminate the poorest and the oldest. But those relatively high in income tend to be longer on money, shorter on time and more interested in the ease generated by the Dash button than in saving.

The New Yorker offers a somewhat tongue-in-cheek view of the disadvantages of Dash button, “The Horror of Amazon’s New Dash Button” by Ian Crouch:

But what if there is actual value in running out of things? The sinking feeling that comes as you yank a garbage bag out of the box and meet no resistance from further reinforcements is also an opportunity to ask yourself all kinds of questions, from “Do I want to continue using this brand of bag?” to “Why in the hell am I producing so much trash?” The act of shopping—of leaving the house and going to a store, or, at the very least, of one-click ordering on the Amazon Web site—is a check against the inertia of consumption, not only in personal economic terms but in ethical ones as well. It is the chance to make a decision, a choice—even if that choice is simply to continue consuming. Look, we’re all going to keep using toothpaste, and the smarter consumer is the person who has a ten-pack of tubes from Costco in the closet. But shopping should make you feel bad, if only for a second. Pressing a little plastic button is too much fun.

That, of course, is a problem that only applies to the relatively comfortable. My guess is they are going to find Internet in Shopping too much of a helpful offer.

Published by

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

700 thoughts on “Amazon’s Dash Button and the Internet of Shopping”

  1. My wife and I, and her sisters and my brother and my mom, … we must be in the minority of American families. When it comes to grocery shopping we are loyal to one brand only. “Best Value Option”. With one exception, I care little for what special logo has been placed on the outside of the package. Packaged processed foods all taste the same.

    NOTE: The one exception is Coca Cola (Coke Zero). I think Pepsi is disgusting.

  2. I find my self deliberately using Amazon less and less, preferring to shop locally. I’ll use Amazon for research or if I really can’t find something. But I really prefer buying from people and people who have a vested interest in my community.

    Joe

    1. Exactly this. Completely aside from the fact that our household has been boycotting Amazon for several years now (for a long list of reasons), we would be reluctant to give our business to a foreign conglomerate when we can get the exact same things from stores where we live, or (last resort) from a Canadian online bookstore.

      Also, 99.9% of the time, for household consumables, it’s better to be able to go buy something we need and have it today, than order something online and have to wait for it to arrive tomorrow or later. Especially since ordering online means paying extra for shipping, one way or another.

      1. Sure, if Amazon opened a chain of Amazon stores you could order it and then swing by the store to pick it up on the way home, but at that point how are you getting any benefit whatsoever over just going and buying it from the supermarket or from the convenience store on the corner?

        Um, they’re called Amazon Lockers. And one reason you might want to use them is not having to stay in line or risk the store not carrying whatever you’re after.

  3. Products like the Dash Button make me embarrassed to be a human. I will be buying less and less from Amazon now.

    Only a fat, stupid American company could come up with such a pathetic idea to keep people fat, stupid, and lazy. Amazon has no shame.

    If any of my affluent friends had these idiotic things stuck on their walls, I would mock them mercilessly and endlessly. Holy f’n sh*t. I can’t think of a single consumer idea that screens “I am an idiot!!” louder than a Dash Button.

  4. If the first comments represent general opinion, Amazon is not going to do well with Dash Button.

    1. Yeah, this isn’t going to work, for a lot of reasons. I watched their promo video. Couple problems, you have to set it up. People just won’t bother. I have to decide where to put a button? Oh, and it only works for some of my stuff so it isn’t a comprehensive solution anyway.

      Next, who’s in charge of pressing the button and squaring those automatic orders with the household budget? I wonder how it handles multiple orders within the space of a couple hours, as dad notices the house is low on toilet paper and presses the button, then a kid notices and does the same thing, then mom does it again. Do you get an alert on your phone? Or do you just get a crapload of toilet paper? An alert would be nice, but now I’m managing the service.

      This just isn’t seamless enough, there are too many points of friction. Add to that the nightmare of brand logos on buttons all over the house, that are stuck on with adhesive strips. So dumb.

    2. Without really knowing how well they want or need to do, they may do well enough. I know people who love Amazon and, like you, order and receive packages almost daily. I know my preference is not widely held. This is definitely a “get as much out of your best customers as you can” move, similar to Stew Leonard’s only using their best, regular customers for their focus groups. Probably doesn’t cost Amazon a whole lot to implement with huge upside potential.

      Joe

      1. You make a good point. If this costs Y to implement with some number of Amazon’s best customers and results in Y+, then it is a success, even if it remains niche. The obvious future implementation of this is a voice app in a wearable so you can say “Amazon, I need more X” anytime you think of it. The problem with Amazon’s speaker/talky/thingy is portability, people can’t have one set up in every room, it isn’t practical.

        1. I also imagine, if the buttons are as branded in all the press, the brand likely underwrites some of the cost as well, reducing risk for Amazon.

          Joe

  5. Amazon doesn’t really do groceries in my country, so maybe I’m out of the loop, but I think first they need to have much better list management than what I can find on their site. I try to place a monthly order with my supermarket, combining 3 lists (weekly, monthly, occasional) for stuff that’s fresh-ish and to be eaten the first week (no veggies, but cheese and milk desserts), regular monthly staples that’ll keep for the month (pasta, canned sauces…), and stuff I don’t need each month (cleaning products…). I was managing my shopping list that way in Google Keep before (3 to-do lists, check/uncheck items as bought or needed), and any supermarket site can do it too. Not so Amazon, AFAIK.

    Also, I’m amazed at people shopping each day (well, my elderly parents do it as an outing). I do fresh stuff 1 or twice a week, only bread gets the daily treatment. Is amazon scheduling a delivery for each button press ? I’d hate that. I think i’d even prefer prefer a couple of pop-ups about stuff I ordered last time or stuff others like me order, than having a daily flow of home deliveries to schedule.

  6. I feel like the Dash Dot is a step backwards from the Dash. The Dash is a much more versatile and useful product, though it would be better served by being an app on phones.

    The case for the Dash Dot falls apart when I think about actually using it. There are dozens of consumer goods products that live in a person’s fridge. Same with the pantry and other spots in the home. Is their expectation that consumers put 20 Dots on their pantry door and 20 on the refrigerator and 15 in the bathroom? Or a Dot for each type of coffee pod and Smart Water flavor?

    Though I will admit it could be pretty magical once 15-min drone shipping is implemented. Press a button and it’s on your door almost immediately.