September 07, 2016

Is Amazon Dash the end of ‘€˜shopping’€™?

By Toby Strangewood Group Strategy Director

Toby Strangewood

Toby Strangewood

Group Strategy Director

Savvy marketers do however know that innovation is often for innovation's sake.

Amazon has launched its '€˜Dash Buttons' in the UK, Toby Strangewood gives his point of view in this edition of The Change Briefing.

What’s changed?

You may have already read that Amazon is finally launching its ‘€˜Dash Buttons’ in the UK. There’s mixed opinion about what this will mean to brands and consumers alike, so here’s my POV.

Amazon Dash

A Dash button is a small plastic device that allows you to re-order a specific product via Amazon Prime, all with a single press. With 40 products, and therefore 40 separate buttons available, consumers can begin to re-order products ranging from Andrex to Whiskas to Durex. Are Amazon expecting the average UK home to be peppered with stick on plastic buttons in a bid to change ecommerce forever and in addition see the collapse of even more high street stores? I’m not so sure’€¦

The buttons themselves will cost £4.99 each and will be pre-programmed to order a specific SKU of a product. Considering the fact that these consumers are already paying an annual subscription of £79 for their Amazon Prime membership, (a prerequisite for the Dash buttons to work), it’s likely that brands themselves will cover the initial outlay cost to the consumer, at least in the short term. As an early adopter of Amazon Prime, I love the service and am completely reliant on it for basically most things’€¦but I am still slightly begrudged having seen the cost of Prime jump so significantly a couple of years ago. I’m still convinced that the oversized packaging that Amazon Prime uses to deliver even the smallest of products is actually designed to subliminally help us justify the cost we pay in subscriptions. ‘€˜Wow that’s a big parcel, I must be getting my money’s worth’.   Although £5 is a nominal amount, will consumers be willing to invest in them time and time again for different household products after the initial couple that are bought due to it being a cute gimmick?

Importantly the buttons will also be branded, and ideally located next to the point of use. So the below scenario begs the questions: How long will you actually sit there without paper before the doorbell rings? How do you then get to the door to sign for your parcel? Not to mention wanting to actually even touch the button in the first place, ewww!!!

Andrex Dash

What are the implications for advertisers?

When the Dash first launched in the US, I would say it was an extremely successful piece of PR for both Amazon and the brands like Tide that associated themselves with it. The product was very much in prototype stage, but it caused a rumble in not only the tech community, but also within the CPG and ecommerce world where speculation on its role in changing the market was rife. The timing was good for the hype too, every other article or conference seemed to reference the Internet of Things and the Connected Home, and so the Dash button was well timed to drive plenty of content.

Savvy marketers do however know that innovation is often for innovation’s sake. It’s not necessarily designed on a roadmap for mass production and consumer demand, but is instead a tangible, PR-able marketing tool to demonstrate that the brand is moving forward, breaking new ground, and thinking about consumer experiences. CPG’s aren’t the only category to do this; Amazon themselves manage to secure column inches every week with more chatter about their drones, Google with their various Google X projects, and even car manufacturers that spend millions on prototype vehicles that will never see the light of day.  But the Dash did make the light of day’€¦ why?

There have been various IPA papers and supporting research to show that consumers just aren’t loyal. We’re a cheating bunch, having brand affairs left right and centre. We can be wooed by a beautifully shot TVC one moment, only to be in the shopping aisle or browsing online where a Tinder style culture of swiping left takes over. Whether we’re attracted to an on-pack promotion or indeed just don’t want to bend down to pick up an item (no joke by the way), the bottom shelf is often the shelf of death for many brands. All the good work done by advertising can be lost at the point of purchase. The technical term is ‘€˜at-shelf deferment’ and it’s the bane of a CPG marketer’s life’€¦well just one of them I’m sure.

What the concept of Dash does is eliminate the influential variable of seeing other products within reach, overlaid with the convenience of ordering it in the moment it has run out, forever closing the gap between usage moments and purchase moments. It’s no oversight that the Dash button doesn’t include a price, or the ability to search for other options, it’s a clever single order mechanism that is designed to stop us ‘€˜shopping’, where shopping is defined as ‘€˜an activity in which a customer browses the available goods or services presented by one or more retailers with the intent to purchase a suitable selection of them’.

In an era where consumers are becoming savvier to advertising, the creation of such a utility is a clever play, however I’m unsure I want CPG brand logos all around my house, especially up to 40 of them. That aside, the Dash in theory provides a seamless consumer experience for repurchasing, but this all assumes the unloyal consumer is happy to opt in and stick the button up to start with.

So what’s next?

The introduction of the Dash in the UK coincides with Amazon’s launch of its same-day grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh in London. Amazon Pantry and Amazon Now are also now available. The Dash will be a major push forwards for the Amazon giant, or at least a tool they will leverage with the brands themselves for improved listing costs. Amazon is also a clever beast. They are moving away from just providing the platform for shopping and delivery, to actually creating products themselves. According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon will begin offering house-branded coffee, nuts and spices as well as baby food and diapers. They’ll reportedly only be available to Prime subscribers too. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to start to piece this puzzle together and see that the Dash button could easily evolve from a branded utility that removed ‘€˜shopping’ from the customer experience, to a single push Amazon own-label product ordering tool ‘ clever Amazon, very clever.

As a fan of user experience within product design, surely if the consumer was at the heart of this innovation, future products would have the button integrated within them and wouldn’t have a brand logo on it at all. I’m sure there is someone at Whirlpool doing that right now, but the question will be: What dishwasher powder brand or non-brand will it order from, and will the consumer even get the ability to ‘€˜shop’ for the best deal or product at the time?

Let’s wait and see’€¦