Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Amazon Dash Button - departure from corporate principles?

Amazon seems to be going away from its basic principles with the latest Amazon Dash button.  Amazon has always been for empowering the customer, providing all the information (choice, prices, reviews, etc.) to the customer so that the customer has all the freedom to make intelligent decisions.  But, with Amazon Dash, all this is going out of the window.  Well, almost all.

Amazon Dash is a new service (and device) that Amazon has recently released.  Amazon supplies stick-on buttons to Prime customers so they can stick these buttons to relevant things in their home/office to seamlessly order supplies before they run out.  The following video from Amazon illustrates it.

The biggest gripe I have with this service is that it is too specific.  It locks customers to specific brands. 

With Dash buttons, Amazon has just driven all new comers out of the playing field.  If Amazon ships me a Tide button, I am voluntarily signing up to buy Tide for the foreseeable future.  Any new competitor to enter the field of washing soap will have a tough time to sell their wares.  The principle of 'Choice to the customer' goes right out of the window.  What if I wanted to try other brands?  Do I have to go to Amazon and get another button for that? 

Amazon is slowly entering our homes and introducing the concept of 'Internet of Things' (IOT) with this device.  All this device is an IOT. albeit not a very smart one.  A smart IOT would have figured out when I am getting low on my supplies and would have automatically placed an order for me.  Well, we will have to wait a bit longer for that. 

What Amazon should have done is create a generic button and sent a dozen of them to each Prime customer.  The customer would then affix the buttons wherever appropriate (like fridge, washing machine, coffee machine, etc) and program them to a particular category.  Note I am saying 'Category', not a specific product.  So, the customer would affix a button on a washing machine and program it to the category of 'Laundry Detergent'.  This is a one time activity.  Once programmed, the device has a specific job.  Its job is to order a laundry detergent. 

This is where Amazon can still empower the customer.  When the user presses the laundry button, the system automatically adds a few choice detergents into the shopping cart as options.  User would then preview the options and choose the one that made the most sense based on brand, quality, reviews, price, etc.  Of course, we could go further and mark one of the choices as a default choice for the next 6 months so that Amazon picks that choice automatically without prodding (at least for the next 6 months).  This way Amazon can still provide the power of choice to the customer.  The customer can always choose the same product and set it as default. 

By not sending brand specific buttons, the customer is free to choose the brand she wants (at that point in time).  Also, the buttons can be made re-programmable so that they can be moved around and assigned different categories as the user sees fit.

New devices and ideas should always be aligned to the corporate vision and should never waver from it.  Otherwise, the company loses its vision and will soon become irrelevant. 

Of course, with the present design, Amazon can flex its muscle and charge brands to position themselves on the Dash button.  This is similar to the retail shelf space they compete for, in a brick and mortar store.

Amazon should use this opportunity to innovate and slowly position themselves within every home.  As long as they stick to their original vision of empowering the customer, this will be a grand success.