First Take: Amazon Dash Buttons – The Internet of Things (IoT) Takes a Big Step Forward

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Image Courtesy of Amazon.com
Image Courtesy of Amazon.com

Have you ever realized you’re running low on laundry detergent or paper towels – only to quickly forget to buy or order? Amazon is looking to change that by monetizing these marketable moments and making them immediately actionable.

How? Amazon has just announced they are getting into the game with something called “Dash Buttons.” These Dash Buttons are tiny plastic wifi-enabled devices that consumers can place throughout their home for instant ordering of depleted staple items. In some sense, this could be better called an Internet of Actions (IoA), as it applies raw utility into real-time moments.

Only a fixed set of brands are included in the initial program including Tide, Bounty, Huggies, Clorox, SmartWater, Gatoraide, Cottonnelle, Kraft Mac & Cheese and more. A complete overview may be found here. Surely, the brands will have a monetary commitment to the program in order to be included but the full terms of this remain unclear.

How does it work? According to Amazon, “Dash Button is simple to set up. Use the Amazon app on your smartphone to easily connect to your home Wi-Fi network and select the product you want to reorder with Dash Button. 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. Unless you elect otherwise, Dash Button responds only to your first press until your order is delivered.”

To get your hands on one, at least to start, you must be an Amazon Prime member. Members must request to be invited and then wait a few weeks to find out if they have been “selected” for the early stage program.

The drawbacks? Pricing remains uncertain for the ordered products and it is unclear as of yet if any thresholds or price comparison features will be activated or automated to support the order.

Of note, the concept here is not new. In fact, due credit must go to the renowned example of Red Tomato Pizza which allowed their loyalty program members to order a pizza with the click of a refrigerator magnet button back in 2012.

It must be noted that in Amazon’s case, this is not just about buttons. Amazon has also announced something called the Dash Replenishment Service (DRS), in which they leverage a network of connected manufactured appliances and devices (not just buttons) to trigger the ordering.

For example, Whirlpool has signed on to provide a smart clothes washer that can “help anticipate when laundry supplies are running low and can provide automatic ordering through DRS.” Similarly Brita has signed on to offer a smart water filter that will “measure the amount of water that passes through its filter and use DRS to order a new filter at the right time.”

And of course it was just a matter of time (minutes) before printer manufacturers entered the ring, with Brother signing on with printers that “measure ink and toner levels and will place orders using DRS so that customers always have the supplies they need to print.” More details on the DRS program and participating brands may be found here.

These types of principles such as the DRS program are very powerful in that they are more than just fulfilling a self-directed consumer need (e.g. I need Tide). Rather, they rather use data and analytics to understand and get ahead of that need, in some sense serving as the consumer’s “wingman,” predicting what they will need and when. This is very similar to the automotive industry’s great interest in the real-time application of telematics data. Both require a new set of technology infrastructure to support it. And to be sure, the big advance here is not really the device, but rather the orchestration and automation around the consumer.

The challenge now: How can other brands innovate such utility-driven marketing strategies – even if they are not the size and scale of an Amazon? And how can it be done quickly? This is a major theme that we are seeing across our digital agency partner base at Kitewheel. Much like the agency that likely dreamt up this new principle, our agencies are helping lead brands to not just new campaigns, but new products and in many cases new business models that tap into real-time consumer moments and turn them into purposeful, utility driven outcomes.

Marketable moments are real – and here to stay – as long as they are tied to utility and value for the end consumer. Amazon has given this principle a great jump ahead today. Now, how will your own brand rise to this new challenge?

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