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Amazon unveils Dash, a new customer ordering program

By Jack Keough

Amazon is at it again.

After recently unveiling a host of new technologically driven products in recent weeks, the giant e-retailer has introduced a new tool called Amazon Dash consisting of a handheld device that allows a customer to create a new order by speaking into a microphone or by scanning a product. It wirelessly connects to computers or mobile devices where customers can view their order and receive updates.

Dash is now only part of the company’s AmazonFresh grocery product delivery system and currently is being tested by invitation only to customers in Seattle, San Francisco and selected parts of California.

At this point, the reclusive Amazon, which rarely elaborates on its press announcements, has not announced its future plans except to say they will expand AmazonFresh to 20 major metropolitan areas and overseas markets. But there undoubtedly is speculation that this ordering system could be expanded into other areas, such as industrial or electrical.

Here is what Amazon is saying about its new ordering system. “Every member of the family can use Dash to easily add items to your AmazonFresh shopping list,” reads the product page. “Keep it on your kitchen counter or hang it on the refrigerator. Did your kids just eat the last of the cereal? Conveniently refill and restock your home’s everyday essentials, and have fun doing it,” Amazon says.

The new device is 6.375 inches long, 1.125 inches wide and can easily fit into a customer’s hand.  Two buttons on the wand- like device engage its barcode-scanning ability or voice recognition. It wirelessly connects to the customer’s Wi-Fi network. The microphone allows users to simply say what they want to order by pressing the microphone button and speaking.  “It’s a voice search that actually works” reads Amazon’s products page.

To scan a barcode, users merely hit the scan button and point. Customers can scan a week’s worth of groceries in minutes. According to the company, Dash recognizes more than 500,000 items on AmazonFresh.

The customer can then review his/her order on a computer or mobile device, make changes, place the order, and schedule delivery.

You can easily see how this could be rolled out to its AmazonSupply program and its industrial customers who could simply order by speaking or scanning the product to be reordered without hitting a key stroke on a computer, easily creating a new order list.  And Amazon, if reports are correct, could ship that order to the customer within a day. Amazon has refused to say whether the device will be rolled out into other markets, only saying it would review test results on Dash. But the selected customers of Dash have praised its introduction and ease of use.

“If you never had to type again on a phone that would be great,” said Amazon’s director of mobile shopping, Paul Cousineau, in an interview with the technology site Recode.net.  “We want you to go from ‘I want that’ to ‘I bought that’ in 30 seconds or 10 seconds…a very short period of time.”

AmazonFresh provides same-day and early morning delivery of a huge selection of items, including fresh grocery and local products. This service provides doorstep delivery where customers do not have to be home as well attended delivery.

This is the latest innovation from Amazon that could be transferred into the distribution marketplace. In January, Amazon introduced a patented program called “anticipatory shipping,” a method in which products can be shipped even before customers order them based on past usage and other factors,  a form of “predictive analysis.” According to the patent, the packages could wait at the shippers’ hubs or trucks until an order arrives, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In addition, this month marks the second anniversary of AmazonSupply.com, Amazon’s entry into the industrial distribution business. AmazonSupply offers industrial supplies from14 different product groups.

Amazon also received headlines last year when it said it will introduce -pending government approval- of a new delivery system in which smaller products could be sent via drones to a customer’s door or place of business.  Use of those drones is still several years away.

Jack Keough was the editor of Industrial Distribution magazine for more than 26 years. He often speaks at many industry events and seminars. He can be reached at john.keough@comcast.net or keoughbiz@gmail.com

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