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Amazon Dash May Be the Future of Consumerism -- But Should It Be?

The on-demand model has become such a craze that even the act of using an app takes too long.


The on-demand model has become such a craze that even the act of using an app takes too long.

Enter the Amazon Dash Button — an even quicker way for customers to ensure they never run out of the products they love. It’s a battery-powered transmitter that, when pushed, connects to Amazon’s servers and automatically places an order.

Amazon Prime members can purchase brand-specific buttons and attach them to their appliances. For example, they can put a Tide button on their washing machine and press it every time they’re running low on detergent.

The button is automating consumerism, and this is an incredibly promising merger of the Internet of Things and commerce. It enables brands to seep further and further into consumers’ homes, and it has the potential to forever revolutionize how goods are bought and sold.

But it’s not perfect.

The pros and cons

For retailers and brands, automated consumerism can be a godsend. Companies can literally attach an impulse-driven call to action to the appliances associated with their products. These brand-exclusive buttons solidify loyalty by discouraging customers from trying different (and less instantly available) products.

But when it comes to the customer experience, the perks of automated consumerism become less clear. Yes, the convenience and immediate satisfaction it provides is unmatchable, but it also encourages customers to thoughtlessly purchase items. Pushing the replenishment button becomes a mindless process that could easily lead to excessive spending.

Customers may think automated consumerism puts them in the driver’s seat, but because just a small handful of brands are offered on Dash, Amazon is actually pulling the puppet strings here. The company is able to control exactly what people buy. Although users could likely pick up cheaper (or better) detergent at a local Walmart, they end up paying extra for the convenience of the Dash Button.

Capitalizing on automation

Despite these concerns, several other companies are also dipping their toes in automated consumerism. These rollouts have created a buzz in Silicon Valley, and the rest of the retail world should watch closely to see how they fare.

Here are a couple of fun new concepts being tested right now:

  • Hiku is a voice-driven button that allows users to create and share shopping lists throughout their devices. Soon it will also be able to do the shopping for them, scouring the Internet and looking for the best deals on each item.
  • Push For Pizza is an app that keeps customers’ payment and delivery information on file, allowing users to order their favorite pizza with just the push of a button. The YouTube video explaining the service has almost 350,000 views, and it even includes a promo code for use on your first order.

From TV-watching to pizza delivery, younger generations have fully embraced the on-demand lifestyle — and automated consumerism promises to scratch that itch better than anything ever has. But I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that automated consumerism will become too widespread just yet.

Forced loyalty and laziness?

It’s possible the premise behind this technology will seem unnecessary or even lazy to sophisticated consumers. Currently, is it really that difficult to stock up on paper towels when you go to the grocery store? You’ll likely be able to find cheaper options than Amazon Dash is offering, and you can also pick the exact brand you desire.

The forced brand loyalty that automated consumerism promotes may also be a turnoff to shoppers. Many consumers, especially of the younger generation, aren’t ready to commit to just one brand. Many aren’t even ready to commit to Amazon Prime memberships to gain access to Dash in the first place. They enjoy having the ability to shop around, compare prices and try new products from time to time. Automating their purchases all but eliminates this freedom.

But on the flip side, perhaps most modern shoppers are indeed too busy in their day-to-day lives to go to the store. If that’s the case, automated consumerism will spread rampantly and provide a perfect time-saving solution to consumers across the globe. We’ll see.

Whether you believe it promotes supreme convenience, oppressive monopolies or just plain laziness, this is still a trend worth keeping an eye on.

Bobby Emamian is the co-founder and CEO of Prolific Interactive, a strategy-led mobile agency headquartered in Brooklyn, NY, with offices in San Francisco. He and his team have worked with companies including ModCloth, Treadless, Rent the Runway, Angie’s List and David’s Bridal. Reach him @prolificbobby.

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