The Clunky Genius Of The Amazon Dash Button Launch

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, August 31, 2015

Forging into the future, Amazon has made its Dash Buttons available to Amazon Prime members. 

If you’re not familiar with the Amazon Dash innovation, it’s sort of like a single product panic button. The small wireless device can be placed strategically in a pantry, changing table drawer, on a countertop, an appliance panel, a forehead – wherever the device can sync up with a Wi-Fi connection. 

The handful of branded partners in the Amazon Dash Button biz make it clear that it’s a Mom-tailored launch, with items like Gerber baby food, Amazon Elements baby wipes, Huggies, Tide, Olay and Cottonelle. 

Once her Huggies Dash button is placed and connected to an Amazon account, when Mom, going about her day, sees she is running low on diapers, she presses it and new diapers are on the way, for delivery in two days. 

It has been a clunky public launch for the Dash Button, with lots of criticism like this stacking up:

  • If you’ve had a toddler with a remote control nearby, you know the complications of random, voluminous button pressing.
  • A host of branded, plastic buttons throughout a refined, mid-century colonial doesn’t exactly say shabby-chic.
  • Button-pressing should equal instant gratification, not two-day shipping.
  • Its use begs the introspection, “Am I really too harried or forgetful to do this from the smartphone in my pocket?”
  • Product availability for the participating brands is unexplainably limited. While there are over 30 Huggies diaper varieties available through the Amazon website, only 12 are available through Dash.
  • The New Yorker honed in on the soullessness of it all, describing an image of homes full of Dash Buttons “as giant Skinner boxes, and of us as rats pressing pleasure levers until we pass out from exhaustion.” 
  • The invite-only launch for the Dash Button was first announced on April Fool’s Eve, causing many to doubt its reality. 



Nonetheless, as the Amazon Dash Button emerges unapologetically out of invite-only status, I see genius in the launch. I see genius in what Amazon is learning about its Mom shoppers, who have already taken the spending on Amazon grocery items up 36% over prior year. 

I see genius in Amazon using its ubiquitous service and partnership with equally ubiquitous consumer brands to take the abstract, Jetsonian concept of the Internet of Things and put it into the market as extremely practical and easy-to-experience.

And I see genius in Amazon not waiting for the right cultural moment, but pulling the right cultural moment forward to now, ready or not. 

For Amazon, the Dash Button has revealed an audience for exclusive product innovation on the way this fall, like Brita pitchers with automated filter ordering technology, Whirlpool washers that respond to diminishing washing supplies, Quirky coffee makers, and pet food dispensers and baby food makers that do the same. 

By making the Dash Button technology accessible — imperfections and all — Amazon now knows there is market for user customization. Hackers are using it to create higher order tools like buttons for counting and recording diaper changes, baby feedings, and medications taken. Used this way, the buttons build accurate data on product use patterns, so that rather than relying on Mom recognizing an inventory outage, the hack models show the opportunity to predict future use and generate an order that includes anticipated shipping time. While running out of disposable diapers in the middle of the night may be a first-world problem, it’s still something great to avoid. 

Amazon has sometimes seemed out of touch in its understanding of today’s mass consumer – pushing drone shipping to the raised eyebrows of many, including the FAA, running a bonkers Anniversary Sale, and asking folks to buy special buttons to order run-of-the-mill stuff on April Fool’s Day. But maybe Amazon is not worried about hitting the right notes with today’s Moms. Perhaps what they’re really focused on is being the first to know about tomorrow’s.

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