If Amazon Dash isn’t an April Fools prank (big if!) it’s an amazing meld of the Internet of Things and Frictionless commerce. Dash buttons are small, branded buttons that can be stuck or hung near a products place of use, say, in the laundry room for detergent and in the bathroom for razors. The buttons are set up via WiFi and managed with an app. Each button can be set to order one variant (size, flavor, scent) of a brand and the user sets that item on an accompanying app. Amazon claims that “once connected, a single press automatically places your order. Amazon sends an order alert to your phone, so it’s easy to cancel if you change your mind.” This process has no friction whatsoever. The user doesn’t even need to approve the order via the app, they can just choose to cancel it, if necessary.
Again, if the Dash is an actual product, it’s brilliant. By allowing users to order products right where they actually use them, Amazon will become the vendor of choice for these users. Amazon makes it so easy with one-press ordering, what’s the point of placing an order anywhere else?
Aside from increasing the brand offerings, here are a few ideas for improving Dash:
- Shipping speed. In the video, Amazon mentioned that shipping is via “Prime shipping.” This makes sense as the Dash button is only currently offered to Prime members and they already receive free two-day shipping. Yet I’m not sure it’s fast enough for household products. If I run out of coffee (and believe me, you don’t want me to run out of coffee!) I need a shipment right away. It would be amazing to see products within a few hours of pressing the Dash button.
- Multiple use buttons. In the laundry room I don’t mind having three buttons to order laundry liquid or powder, fabric softener and dryer sheets, but in the bathroom or kitchen it gets trickier. A coffee button near my coffee machine is nice, but suppose I like to alternate between two or three different brands? Likewise in the pantry – to I need an array of 20 buttons in one kitchen cabinet? It can get messy.
- In-package Dash? There will come a day when the Dash button will become so cheap to manufacture that it can be included as part of the product packaging and be able to detect remaining quantities independently. Instead of pressing a button when you need more laundry pods, the container itself will order more pods when it is a few loads away from being empty.
Finally, a bit of a drawback, unpredictable costs. While users do have the option to cancel an order via the app, it still a bit problematic that Amazon states that “some of the offer details may change as you reorder the product over time (for example, price, taxes, availability, shipping charges, and the seller.) This is unfair to the user who is assuming a certain cost but can be surprised when a new seller supplies a product at a higher cost. I don’t think that this should be a necessary hassle of “frictionless” shopping and it seems a bit bait-and-switch-ish. It’s a minor quibble in an otherwise great product idea and I’ve said it before, to achieve “frictionless,” users need to give up some pricing control and yes, pay more.