Amazon Dash Buttons and the Future of Online Ordering

Just shy of a year ago, I wrote a piece on Amazon Dash and why people should care about the advent of this new technology. I made a particular point about this trend being about “more than a single device” and we’re beginning to see this type of device proliferation in eCommerce in the form of Amazon Dash Buttons.

Amazon recently announced the Dash Button, which takes single item ordering to the new level. A small device, capable of ordering single branded products, can be placed nearby a product’s primary place of use.  For example, I might be prone to place a LaVazza button (if there were such a thing) on my coffee grinder if only I could get an invitation — hint, hint, Amazon.

As you can imagine, I have a few thoughts on where this technology is headed, the impact it will have on eCommerce, and about why I believe this incarnation of the technology, while innovative, will be short-lived.

So where is this going? The goal in any eCommerce scenario is a conversion. A sale. I remember the hesitancy with which I initially clicked the “Buy” button on my very first online purchase. I remember again some apprehension the first time I purchased from a mobile device, but those days are long gone. We all accept purchasing online as a way of life, one that no longer requires going to a physical store. The Dash Button will be a catalyst for the transformation of how we buy commodity items. Using a computer or a mobile device to make a purchase will become a thing we talk about, just like when we had to go to the bookstore to find something to read.  The ability to connect devices designed for a single purpose to others that can monitor and manage the actions of those devices will forever change the way we purchase things needed on a regular basis. In addition, this takes personalization to an entirely different level, one where a customer can personalize the way in which they interact with an online retailer for various types of purchases.

The impact on eCommerce will be two-fold if these types of purchases are to become commonplace. First, connectivity has to be ensured.  If I installed a LaVazza button on my coffee grinder and pushed the button only to find out I had to reconfigure the wifi connection every other time I used it, I’d throw it in the garbage. Second, immediate feedback is needed to let me know that my purchase was recorded.  I’ve only been able to watch the video for the Dash Button, but a simple flashing light to let me know the request was received would be great. Also, perhaps a flashing red light would be appropriate if there were currently no items in stock.  This means that eCommerce platforms have to be able to handle transactions that require end-to-end connectivity.  In other words, batch updates will have to become a thing of the past if an online retailer wants to compete in this space.

…because it’s a great idea, I don’t think the Amazon Dash Button will last. Yes, that’s exactly what I meant.

Lastly, because it’s a great idea, I don’t think the Amazon Dash Button will last.  Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. It is very cool, but it’s the modern day equivalent of having to take phone calls on one device and send emails on another.  This “separateness” will last for a while because it’s all we know, but then we’ll see smart manufacturers begin to place this type of configurable functionality directly in their products.  In other words, my coffee grinder would come with a “Reorder Coffee” button.  Everything from paper towel holders to washing machines to dishwashers will be equipped with reorder buttons. And it’s important to note that discrete purchasing will only be of use if the manufacturers allow them to be programmed to place an order via any vendor for any brand that they want. If a more restrictive approach is implemented, only allowing the purchase of Tide directly from a washing machine for example, consumers will revolt. Eventually, it would be nice to see this technology allow purchase of any brand from any vendor that supports a discrete purchasing protocol (an emerging standard, perhaps).

Making sure online retailers are ready for discrete purchases requires that platforms be scalable, responsive, and have real-time information. The lack of any one of those qualities will leave this technology lacking. In the end, it’s all about supporting the best experience for the user and we are going to see some real advantages — and advances — come from Amazon’s Dash Button.

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