The fear of buttons is known scientifically as Koumpounophobia, and approximately 75,000 people are believed to suffer from it. Steve Jobs was perhaps the world’s most influential button hater, and wherever he is today, he’s probably smiling, as Amazon recently announced that it had stopped selling Dash Buttons. The plastic devices, introduced in April of 2015, enabled consumers to re-order household products with a gentle push. But the Dash Button struggled to find traction with the public, and ran afoul of regulators in Europe for failing to “provide up to date pricing information.” As voice shopping and other, more convenient ways to replenish products appeared, the Dash Button has gone the way of another button heavy device: the Blackberry. Let’s take a look at what the Dash Button’s demise means for ecommerce in 2019.
The Dash Button is perhaps a victim of its own success. Four years ago, it was an innovative product based on the principle that an easy way to replenish household staples without trekking to the supermarket would catch on. But as increasing numbers of brands and retailers began to see the potential of frictionless consumption, better alternatives have emerged. While the push button, wait 2 days, product appears at your door model may have sounded wildly convenient in 2015, a host of retailers, including Amazon, now offer same-day delivery on all the items purchased through Dash Buttons, along with transparent pricing.
The buttons themselves also became a problem. Each individual button was branded with a product logo, and meant to be stuck on the device it was used in tandem with. While a miniature Tide billboard on your washing machine sounds fine, most consumers didn’t want their fridges and bathroom mirrors plastered with corporate logos. Amazon has created virtual dash buttons for all the products available in the program, which willl be available whenever a consumer opens the app on their phone or instructs Alexa to “show my Dash Buttons.” The virtual buttons also have the advantage of displaying accurate and up-to-date pricing information, the lack of which had annoyed consumers and led regulators to question the legality of transactions.
In Amazon’s press release on the demise of the Dash Button, they declared that:
"With Dash Replenishment, we’ve launched hundreds of devices globally that automatically reorder essentials so customers don’t have to think at all about restocking….We’ve also seen customers increasingly using programs like Alexa Shopping, which provides a hands free shopping experience, and Subscribe & Save, which lets customers automatically receive their favorite items every month."
The Future of Replenishment
EMarketer has found that the two fastest growing sectors in ecommerce have been food/beverage; and health/personal care/beauty. They note that CPG/FMCG goods are uniquely positioned to thrive as voice shopping takes hold, as most products in this sector need to be replaced regularly and they don’t require a “visual display or deep research.” Amazon is leaning heavily into Alexa Shopping, (which it has begun referring to as “hands-free shopping”) and it claims that sales have been increasing, although it hasn’t revealed recent statistics on the growth of the service. As eMarketer’s principal analyst Andrew Lipsman notes, the Dash Button “seeded the idea for easy replenishment, which is now gaining traction through voice commerce. Ordering through Alexa provides the same benefit of a low friction purchase without having to affix branded logos to every corner of the house.”
Meanwhile, subscription replenishment services have shown a great deal of promise recently, with McKinsey & Company reporting that replenishment subscriptions currently account for 32% of the ecommerce subscription market. Popular upstarts like the Dollar Shave Club and iherb have inspired the Amazon “Subscribe & Save” program, which offers discounts to consumers who replenish five or more products per month. Subscription has proved popular with consumers, to the point where 84% of American consumers are significantly under-estimating their monthly spending on subscriptions and digital purchases, according to a recent survey.
Smart Packaging and the Internet of Things
Another nail in the Dash Button’s coffin is the ability of connected devices to remove the last bit of thought and physical effort from replenishment transactions. Amazon’s new focus on Replenishment Services involves devices capable of measuring and tracking usage and re-ordering supplies when your stock gets low. The devices can be connected to your account so that no log-in or payment information is necessary. Amazon has already partnered with appliance manufacturers, coffee companies, ink cartridge suppliers and a host of other brands to take whatever hints of inconvenience remained out of the replenishment process.
As technology develops and sensors grow cheaper, almost every consumer good will have the ability to purchase its own replacement. As an executive at Jabil Packaging Solutions notes, currently smart packaging technology generally functions with the sensors embedded in a re-usable device which dispenses the consumable (think a plug-in air freshener, pet food dispenser, or spice rack). The “connected consumable” is the holy grail of the industry. The executive notes that with sensors capable of monitoring liquid levels or weight currently costing 15 cents US, we are getting much closer to connected consumables, which have the potential to change the replenishment game.
What Does This Mean for Other Brands?
The death of the Dash Button is primarily due to the success of the replenishment economy. As money poured in and technology improved, everyone found better ways to get consumers the products they regularly use. What does this mean for your business? Primarily, it means that it’s time to find ways to offer customers the same convenience that Amazon can. You should be finding a way to ensure that your sales channels can frictionlessly deliver what you make to the people who use it without relying on Amazon. As the monolithic corporation branches out into own brand products and pulls the plug on thousands of businesses without any prior notice, its time for every brand to build a sales channel that allows consumers to effortlessly replenish products. If you don’t do it, somebody else will!