By Bridget McCrea
Fewer than half of Amazon’s Dash customers are using their push-button devices, but that hasn’t stopped the e-tailing behemoth from pressing on with its innovative selling strategy.
If the idea of being able to push one button to replenish your supply of laundry soap or paper towels doesn’t really get your attention, you’re not alone. Rolled out in 2015, Amazon’s “Dash button” has yet to take hold on any significant level, yet the e-tailing behemoth hasn’t retired the idea just yet. In fact, even without any major interest in it from its huge hoard of customers, the company continues to tout Dash as something that could revolutionize the way we purchase everyday items whose selection requires little or no thought.
Re-introduced to the world last year in a completely new format, Amazon’s Dash button is a small, wireless-enabled button tied to a specific product (like Tide detergent or Bounty paper towels). Resembling a small flash drive, the Dash sticks onto an appliance like a washing machine. When you run low on laundry detergent, you simply press the button to order it automatically via an application that ties into Amazon’s Prime service. When the customer receives the Dash buttons, he or she determines the quantity of the product that will be ordered each time it is pressed (i.e., a 6-pack of Bounty paper towels).
The skeptics surfaced pretty quickly after Amazon announced the new development. “The Dash Button is a very cool, simple, ‘Apple-y’ device. It does one thing and apparently does it well. But it also has many curious and obvious flaws, many of which have been discussed in detail in the media,” wrote Ideasicle’s Will Burns in Forbes’ If The Amazon Dash Button Fails It Will Still Succeed In Normalizing Online Buying Behavior. “What if a child decides to press the button? Is it practical to have thirty of these buttons in a pantry holding as many family staples? Isn’t it just as easy to order these products from your smartphone?”
But Amazon doesn’t care about any of that, Burns concluded at the time. “The Dash Button is an advertising campaign disguised as an innovative new service.” But to analyze Amazon’s Dash button sales is to miss the bigger picture, according to Fast Company’s Jared Newman. “These buttons probably aren’t meant to drive significant revenue for Amazon,” he writes, in The Secret Power Of Amazon’s Dash Buttons: Not Sales, But Data. “The true goal, in all likelihood, is to generate data. By understanding the shopping habits of brands’ most loyal customers, Amazon has a better chance to create the shopping business of the future.”
Breaking the Tyranny of the Urgent
According to Dirk Beveridge, founder of Chicago-based UnleashWD and author of INNOVATE! How Successful Distributors Lead Change in Disruptive Times, Amazon’s commitment to Dash also shows how the company is willing to innovate and try new things even when the odds are against them. So where most companies would dump a short-term loser even if they feel it will be a long-term dominator in the marketplace, Amazon is holding its ground and hoping that more of its customers will warm up to the idea of sticking adhesive “buy buttons” on their washing machines and refrigerators.
In June, The Wall Street Journal analyzed some market research and revealed that fewer than half of the customers with Dash buttons had placed a single order via the one-touch shopping system. “Each Dash button costs $4.99, but customers get a $4.99 credit on the first order made with each button. So it’s essentially free once you place an order with one of the buttons,” writes Brad Tuttle in Why People Aren’t Using Their Amazon Dash Buttons to Buy Stuff. “Even so, apparently the majority of customers with Dash buttons never get their $4.99 credit because they never use them.”
Even so, both B2C and B2B companies can borrow a page from Amazon’s innovation playbook. “The Dash Button presents some cool capabilities in industrial B2B companies – for both manufacturers and distributors,” according to Zilliant’s Smart Tech: Imagine the Possibilities of Amazon Dash. Distributors, for example, could easily reorder consumables from manufacturers and suppliers could use the button to pull end-customer purchase data back through the supply chain. “There are some really exciting possibilities for traditional industrial companies.”
In assessing those possibilities, Beveridge says it’s important for distributors to understand that innovation isn’t always clean, nor is it clear-cut and straightforward. In fact, most of the times it’s pretty darned messy. “Innovative companies do their best due diligence, they listen to their customers, and they do their ideation and prototyping,” Beveridge explains. “Then, those companies bring something out into the world, which in turn has to vote on it.”
But the road to innovation doesn’t end there. Once the world gets its hands on the new idea, product, or concept, it’s up to the company to continue “listening” to users and then utilizing that feedback to hone and finesse the innovation until it truly meets the needs of those customers. And while the process seems both long and burdensome, when the right combination comes up, the effort is well worth it.
“Look, success isn’t always found where you want it to be found,” says Beveridge. For example, the first time you put something out into the world—and it may be something you feel is the best idea ever—the actual, ultimate success could wind up being an offshoot or pivot of that original concept. “This applies in the case of Dash,” he adds, “where Amazon clearly has some good ideas that haven’t quite played out the way it thought they would.”
What’s notable here, says Beveridge, is that the e-tailer has the “courage to keep trying,” and that it isn’t throwing in the towel just yet. “Amazon has focus, will, and energy. That’s something that electrical distributors can definitely learn from,” says Beveridge, who sees a commitment to long-term thinking (versus short-term gains) as a good starting point for companies that want to do a better job in this area.
“Traditionally, distributors have been caught by the tyranny of the ‘urgent,’ even though they know that customers will be buying differently three years from now. The key to long-term success is to keep learning, innovating, and putting the customer at the center of everything that you do.”
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.
Tagged with Amazon, innovation, online shopping, tED