When Amazon announced Amazon Dash, a device that lets consumers reorder common household products ranging from peanut butter to paper towels through their AmazonFresh accounts, many thought it must be an early April Fool’s joke.
After Amazon confirmed that Dash is no joke, the criticism began. TIME’s Paul Roberts asked, “Will Technology Like Amazon’s Dash Button Make Us Stupid?” and The New Yorker’s Ian Crouch wrote of its horrors.
But Amazon believes Dash is capable of creating real value for consumers. “Some people will think buttons will be a silly idea, and it is a silly idea to think we will have houses full of buttons,” Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall told The Wall Street Journal. “You see the Tide button, you know it’s for Tide and the same amount you buy every time shows up on your doorstep two days later.”
In the future, however, those silly buttons will in many cases become unnecessary if Amazon has its way. “The real long-term goal is that you never have to worry about hitting that button,” Pearsall revealed.
Thanks to partnerships with companies like Whirlpool, Brita and Brother, Amazon may one day tap into networks of smart household devices to predict when the consumables associated with those devices need to be replenished. With Dash Replenishment Service, consumers don’t even have to think about reordering; it’s done automatically for them at the appropriate time behind the scenes.
There are certainly reasons to question Amazon’s vision. Dash raises numerous privacy concerns and Amazon will face significant execution challenges. There are also technical hurdles, namely ensuring that the predictive analytics that Amazon uses to initiate reorders is accurate enough.
But if Dash is even modestly successful, it could be an important development for large CPG brands that have largely struggled to capitalize on the ecommerce opportunity and have seen smaller upstarts carve out online niches.
As AdAge’s Jack Neff notes, “Amazon has been getting growing attention from packaged-goods brands in recent years, even if it only accounts for low-single-digit percentages of sales for most.
But analysts say smaller and specialty brands often have much bigger shares at Amazon and other e-commerce players than in brick-and-mortar stores, thanks to the near-infinite shelf space online. Such brands as Method and Seventh Generation have long gotten more than a quarter of sales from e-commerce.”
Brands participating in Dash include Procter & Gamble, Clorox, Kraft and Kimberly-Clark and if, as Neff suggests, Dash becomes “a conduit for trade-promotion funds as brands bid for buttons,” Dash may provide these larger CPG players with the ability to establish online some of the competitive advantages they have used to dominate offline.