Amazon launched 20 years ago as an online bookstore, but today you can buy just about anything from the retailer including food, eBooks, and exercise equipment. But if there’s one thing that ties together all the aspects of Amazon’s business models, it’s the fact that the company wants to make it easier for you to buy things… from Amazon.
The company tried to obtain a patent on “one-click” ordering. And its Kindle eReaders and Fire tablets are pretty cheap, because they’re designed to give you a reason to buy apps, eBooks, games, and other content (which you can do from the device itself).
Now Amazon has introduced a product that lets you order items without evening opening a web browser or mobile app. Just place a physical button near your paper towels, coffee pods, laundry detergent, or other items and when you’re running low on a product just click the button to order a refill.
It’s called an Amazon Dash Button, and it’s a free program available exclusively to Amazon Prime members. Initially you’ll need to request an invitation to test out the service and you’ll only be able to use up to three Dash Buttons per customer. But if the program proves successful for Amazon, expect to see a wider release later on.
Here’s how it works: you can request buttons for select products. When the buttons arrive you can use the Amazon app on your phone to select exactly which product should be associated with the button (do you want the 12 pack of toilet paper, or the 32 pack?)
Once that’s done, all you need to do to place an order is tap the button. You’ll get a confirmation on your mobile device.
Worried that you’ll accidentally hit the button repeatedly and end up ordering 600 pounds of dog food? Amazon’s thought of that — unless you change the settings, the company will only register the first click of the Dash button. Place an order and you won’t be able to place another until your initial order is delivered (although you can always override the settings, or just visit Amazon’s website to place another order).
It’s still probably a good idea to place the buttons in a position where your toddlers and pets won’t be able to get at them though, unless you really do want new laundry detergent or trash bags delivered every few days.
Overall Amazon’s Dash Button program sounds like an interesting application of Internet-of-Things technology. But is it really that hard to remember to fire up the Amazon app or website when you need to place an order? Dash Buttons sort of feel like a solution in search of a problem.
That said, if you’re constantly running out of coffee, water filters, printer ink, or other items I suppose it could come in handy — even without the buttons. Amazon is also launching something called Dash Replenishment Services (DRS)s, which allows product makers to integrate Dash functionality directly into their goods.
DRS launch partners include Whirlpool (which will automatically order detergent or other laundry supplies when you’re running low), Brita (which has a water pitcher that knows when it’s time to replace your filter and orders a new one automatically), Brother (which orders to printer ink when you’re running low), and Quirky, (which is launching a line of coffee machines, baby formula makers, and pet food dispensers that can order refills automatically).