The Problems with Amazon's Dash Buttons

By Rob Enderle June 29, 2016

The news this week is that Amazon is going to massively expand their Dash Button program, which hasn’t sold well, to include more buttons. This increases sales from tiny, to 70 percent more than tiny.   The concept is a good one, place a connected button near where you use a consumable item and folks will just hit the button when they need to order more rather than putting it on a list to buy later.

So why aren’t these things selling better if they are so handy?  Well for a number of reasons let’s cover them. 

We Are Creatures of Habit

One of the hardest things to do is convince people who have done something the same way for years to do it differently.   We’ve had eBooks for over a decade now and with them you can both buy books far cheaper than hard copies and carry an entire library in your purse or pocket - yet there are still a massive number of folks who “like the way the page feels in their hands” and wouldn’t touch eBooks with a 10 foot pole.  

Going from shopping lists or simply purchasing much of this stuff as part of a store visit for these folks just doesn’t seem natural and they still have to go to the store anyway.

Immediacy

The operational problem for these buttons is they aren’t immediate.  Let’s say you run out of dishwasher soap.  Well you figure this out right when you need to run a load and you hit the button.  Then 2 or 3 days later the new soap arrives only problem is those dishes are likely pretty ripe by then and your counter and sink are likely filled with more of them by the time the soap shows up.

Ideally you’d want to hit the button and have the soap show up in a few minutes not a few days.  Once drone delivery becomes viable that’ll happen. For now, it is generally just a ton better to make a store run and pick up other stuff you need along with the stuff you’ve just run out of.  The Dash Button isn’t fast enough.

Appearance

The low hanging fruit for a product like this are folks that are technology forward.  They likely have cutting edge washers, dryers, kitchen appliances, and their house is somewhat of a tech showplace.  These buttons are placed on flashy logos for the products you are buying.   They don’t go with the other stuff the people likely to use them have, they won’t be displayed with pride (so user’s friends never see them) and there is no status associated with using them.  Therefore, your typical tech early adopter, even if they buy them, won’t serve as an advocate for them because they aren’t proud of the way they look.   This is very different than products like the Amazon Echo which are attractive and appeal to this same audience.   

Better Alternative

Ideally what the market likely wants is a better looking product that likely covers a variety of products and, today, that would be a tablet like the Amazon Kindle Fire.   These have become relatively inexpensive, you can leave them around and they look good, and you can order virtually anything you need with them.   Even better would be some kind of utility that would monitor your consumption and then auto-order in time for the new supply to arrive before the old one ran out.  Closest thing to this is a subscription from Amazon but the issue is we often don’t use stuff that regularly which means sometimes you’ll have to much and others you will run out before the new supply arrives.  Ideally a device that directly monitored usage and reorders automatically like HP printers can be made to do, would likely be more ideal. 

Wrapping Up

The problems with the Amazon Dash Buttons are three fold.  We don’t like to change how we do things, they won’t be fast enough until same day delivery becomes more common and the devices need to be more attractive.   In the end they will become redundant to the solution we’d prefer, one that anticipates our need and has the replacement to us before we run out.  

Until we get where we need to be, the Amazon Dash Buttons will likely just not be what most of us want.   




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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