Amazon kills its Dash button – what comes next?

Discussion
Source: Amazon
Aug 02, 2019
George Anderson

Back in April 2015, RetailWire asked the question (tongue firmly planted in cheek) if Amazon.com’s new Dash button product reordering system was “the future of shopping?” Our answer then and now is the same — “No.” Amazon, apparently agrees, since it is decommissioning all its Dash buttons at the end of the month.

The move, first reported by CNET, follows a decision by Amazon in February to no longer sell new buttons. The e-tail giant has continued to let Dash button owners place reorders using the devices since then. With the physical devices no longer being operational after Aug 31, Amazon customers can use its app or it site to use virtual buttons created for them by the e-tail giant. 

The e-tail giant will also continue to sell its Dash Wand, a $34 device equipped with a microphone so customers can shop using the Amazon Alexa voice-ordering tool or the built-in barcode scanner. 

The decision to kill Dash buttons was made easier by the emergence of Alexa. Use of the technology, which is found in Amazon devices as well as a growing number of smart home appliances, has continued to diminish the need for the buttons.

Amazon predicted a short life for Dash when it launched the buttons more than four years ago. At the time, The Verge reported that the company saw Dash as a short-term solution with the goal that companies would eventually incorporate its features into household appliances. Amazon, according to the same report, also saw a future where “eventually these sensors will get so small and cheap to make, that you could have them in individual products too.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think Amazon has learned from its Dash experience? In addition to being incorporated into appliances, is Amazon correct that reordering tech will be added to individual products, as well?

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17 Comments on "Amazon kills its Dash button – what comes next?"


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Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

Amazon used Dash to quickly address a market need. They accurately tracked and anticipated the next need, which phases Dash out. The lesson to learn there is that it’s OK to have an expiration date on a solution, and you should constantly evolve how you’re addressing customer needs. Amazon is absolutely correct when they say that reordering tech will be added to individual products. Now I need them to supply a trusted contractor to show up to configure, install, and replace my smart light bulbs. I believe this is the rise of consumers who want (and expect) trusted service bundled into the price.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I don’t know what the company learned. Maybe that people can remember they need something between doing the laundry and getting back to their computer or phone? That shoppers aren’t willing to pay $4.99 just in case they have bad memories?

I feel the same way about reordering built into appliances. I keep asking myself why I need a smart refrigerator or a smart thermostat (I actually need a new thermostat), and I can’t come up with a single reason.

In terms of reordering tech built into individual products, I suppose the UPC could be used for that. Scan it into a shopping list. Or a QR code if you want to be fancy.

I don’t think of myself as a Luddite at all. I just want things to have a purpose.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

This is another example of a technology solution looking for a problem — and not really finding one. Repetitive reordering using a device is still not in demand because using your voice with your phone, or the Amazon assistant, or even just swiping on your phone is so easy. Why find another device and specifically use it? We have a long and arduous road to follow before this technology gets incorporated into appliances (and remains site independent) to better help consumers.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust

I am curious to know how many customers were using the Dash button, for how long and if they were satisfied with the experience. If the numbers were as substantial as Amazon would like us to believe, then I am puzzled by their decision and wonder how customers using the Dash button will respond. However, if the number of Dash button users were not up to Amazon’s expectations, then it makes sense for the company to attempt a different method in hoping to secure more customers using the service. Only time will tell, and we’ll have to wait and see how customers respond to the new reordering technology method.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

I always thought the Dash button was a great toe-in-the-water first step experiment in understanding the range of replenishment categories in the home. From laundry detergent to toothpaste to dog food, what items/categories can be put on autopilot … and how? Amazon now has a couple years of data to help them build a better model.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

So, Amazon piloted, experimented with, and killed the Dash Button. I never owned one so I won’t miss it. Some things are just not that life-changing that one should have one, but businesses with deep pockets (and small profits) can take the liberty to experiment and see what works. As long as the decision to desist does not have a negative PR consequence, the world will forget. Reordering technology has to be designed carefully. One can scan UPC barcodes into an app and reorder is simple. But if one discards the item BEFORE scanning the app, there has to be a way to recall the item from history and re-order it that way. More sophisticated ways could include learning a household’s patterns of consumption and recommending re-orders and waiting for approval, or automatically re-ordering. Finally, the best method would be for the app to read my mind…

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Instacart remembers everything you’ve bought, and I find that really helpful. That’s always where I start — because most of the time, I buy the same stuff over and over again. It’s not a perfect service, but it’s a really good way to trigger my memory.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

What is this thing you call “memory?” Does it come in a jar?

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Amazon learned that physical buttons are not the solution. For anyone who misplaces the TV remote, keeping track of a bunch of buttons for different products is not a good idea. The buttons on an app AND the Alexa type solutions are preferable. However, this is not a choice of either; rather, it is a need for both. Not everyone wants an Alexa type device. Not everyone likes using apps. Adding a device to products may be a really good choice. It would be nice to hit the reorder button when the product is almost gone. However, it would be important to keep consumers from accidentally reordering when they use the product.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Amazon continues to try and make life easier for its customers. Why push a button to order when you can just say, “Alexa, please order more ___.”? The goal is convenience, and if there is a company that gets how important that is to the consumer, it’s Amazon. This is a continuation of their focus on the customer. Who knows, maybe one day Amazon’s Alexa will be discontinued.

David Dorf
BrainTrust
5 months 16 days ago

It was a great experiment, and I bet they learned it wasn’t worth all the work to forge partnerships with appliance manufacturers. Alexa came along and it works well enough making the Dash buttons obsolete. This is how innovation works — some ideas thrive and some don’t. Cut your losses quickly and move on to the next idea.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

In my mind this was from the beginning something that fell into the category of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” None of the stories I read about the Dash buttons’ demise indicated the number that were provided to Prime members or their usage. My belief is that they were a novelty that was used and shown off to visitors at first and then their usage declined over time.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Dash proved to Amazon that they can dominate the headlines without doing anything serious. Or at least they have always been able to do that — perhaps it will change in the future.

This is a serious problem for the retail economy. Amazon does important things and has built some tremendous strengths. And, they’re just a company – with as many foibles as they have strengths.

What retailers should learn from Dash is to focus on their specific retail strengths (online, offline) and ignore Amazon’s PR.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Amazon has taken the “fail fast and often” doctrine to heart. New technology? They’ll try it. If it doesn’t work, they move on with our spending a small fortune explaining their decision. So they learned voice activation is a better interface than Dash … and now they are moving along to the next innovation. As to the second question, intuitively the answer appear to be yes, but intuition isn’t the best benchmark. We’ll all know the answer when Amazon expands the range of items with reordering technology or phases it out.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
This was always an experiment, much as we all used to say every new Google product was “in beta” at launch. This was also provided great PR to catch on to the IoT trend when Amazon announced them. I suspect they learned any of the following things: What products consumers are interested in using a semi-automated replenishment approach for vs. “standard” online ordering; How many consumers are willing to purchase and enable yet another device just for ordering a single product; Comparative data around which consumers used an Alexa device vs. a Dash button for reordering; How many customers used virtual Dash buttons vs. physical ones once they enabled that feature. (This includes myself and my household as we have many virtual dash buttons configured for items like batteries, water filters, etc. but no physical dash buttons); How easy (or difficult) it is to work with CPG brands for integration around reordering. My guess would be that they found (as I and my household did) that physical Dash buttons just don’t have any value above… Read more »
Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

I think it was clear that Dash buttons weren’t ever going to be a permanent solution — it would be impracticable to have buttons all over your house in order to reorder everything you might run out of. I think as an experiment to understand more about customer habits, rate of usage/replenishment and even to see what kind of products people opted to use the buttons for, Dash may have provided Amazon with some interesting insights that can inform its future reordering options.

Overall though, virtual buttons or voice ordering seems like a simpler, and more useful, option so it’s not hard to understand the shift. At the end of the day customers take to what is intuitive and useful.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

The era of push-button grocery shopping comes to an end. Dash, we hardly knew ye.
It is being replaced by voice-ordering via Alexa, which will also end food shopping in stores until it doesn’t. The relentless march of crazy ideas continues.

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