The spread of Amazon is seemingly unstoppable. One of their latest ways to enter our homes are “Dash Buttons” that allow you to reorder products with the click of a (sponsored) button. The promo video for the product aired just before April Fool’s Day in 2015 and had some thinking it was more of a joke than an actual marketing campaign.
But the Dash Buttons hit the market the following July, at $4.99 apiece.
Amazon ostensibly wants to do away with any sort of physical shopping altogether; Jeff Bezos is now doing to grocery stores what he originally did to bookstores. Of course, shopping on Amazon is nice; they’ve created an entire culture not only of comfort and ease, but also of excitement – who doesn’t love getting Amazon boxes in the mail? – competing with the instant gratification you get from buying on site.
Not only is one of the most comprehensive moves in Amazon’s “Internet of Things” strategy, it appears to be an attempt to revolutionize the way we shop. Again. This is the physical embodiment of Amazon’s, oft-maligned and joked-about, infiltration into our homes and nearly every aspect of our lives.
Here’s how they work (from Amazon.com):
Fast Company was quick to criticize back in August, saying, “The future never looked so futile” after Mark Wilson had one in every room of his house (full article: Life With The Dash Button: Good Design For Amazon, Bad Design For Everyone Else), and The New Yorker’s outlook was even more dire in their piece The Horror of Amazon’s New Dash Button, predicting a Skynet-style takeover of consumer goods.
Our initial prediction was that they would be phased out fairly quickly; more of a gimmick than something that people actually need to make life easier. Amazon put a lot of faith into Team “Pay for Convenience” coming out strong for them.
So, 9 months after they officially hit the market, how are Dash Buttons doing?
Well, for starters, they haven’t been phased out. In fact, they’re expanding. More brands have hopped on board and are now Dash Button-available, which is ultimately what is going to make these things useful. You can now get Gatorade, Larabars, and Orbit gum along with practical goods like Tide detergent, Cottonelle toilet paper, and Hefty trash bags.
And they’re also now (technically) free. You pay the $4.99 up front, but then get $5 credit after you make your first purchase of whatever brand you bought the button for. So, if you use them, free. This takes away the “pay for convenience” side, and all that’s left is, well, convenience. And they certainly are that.
But are people using them?
No one we talked to in the Twin Cities really is, but that doesn’t mean much. Amazon has reported that Dash Buttons are doing well, but hasn’t released any information to verify that. There aren’t any purchase numbers, indicators of user satisfaction, or, rare for Amazon, user reviews on their site. You can go to a “Questions” section on the purchase page to gain some user insight, and see that, yes, some people are actually using them (though still with a fairly cynical view of the product).
But it is an ideal product for those living in rural areas who benefit from not having to drive 10+ miles to pick up household items. And the benefit to the handicapped community is also important to note.
One would guess that, in Amazon’s perfect world, we will be able to order everything we need with the click of a Dash Buttons (or the next iteration). We won’t need to ever leave the house again, we’ll just stay inside furiously pushing buttons and waiting for those familiar boxes to show up on our doorsteps.
But it seems, at least thus far, that people only have a tangential relationship with this type of shopping. That isn’t to say consumers won’t become more comfortable with the idea that they won’t have to physically shop for more of, well, anything, but there is still a certain level of convenience in going grocery shopping and getting everything you need in one fell swoop, as well as making it easier to budget, plan, stock, etc. Don’t look for grocery stores to be wiped from the landscape just yet.
Side note: As the buttons are wireless, of course they were going to get hacked. This is 1.) evidence that maybe they are more useful than we originally thought, and 2.) pretty cool. Read more on that here: Hacking Amazon Dash Buttons and here: Amazon Dash Button Teardown
The Dash Buttons also appear to be only the beginning of a grand “Internet of Things” scheme of which Amazon is at the forefront. Amazon’s “Dash Replenishment Service” is now live, and the prospect of all your products simply reordering themselves (more on that ominous possibility here) is nigh. Dash Buttons, which require at least some human involvement to reorder products, unlike the Replenishment Service which takes you out of the equation entirely, probably won’t remain relevant for long. Soon your appliance hardware will simply be doing it for you.
I guess we’ll see in another 9 months when, if The New Yorker is to be believed, we’ll all be at the mercy of our dishwashers and water filters.