April Fool’s joke or dash buttons taking over your home?

Released one day before April Fools, the Amazon Dash Button is a Wi-Fi connected device that enters the Smart Home Technology group, it basically reorders your favorite product with the press of a button.

Each Dash Button is paired with a product of your choice, right now only a few brands of product are available, and within these brands only a few package sizes are available. The product of your choice is selected through the Amazon App during the set-up process. The price for the button of $4.99 but it is deducted from your first purchase.[1]

Since their launch last year, they have been continuously adding new products, but still there is a very limited offering.[2]


You can only press the button once, meaning you cannot make more than one order and you do not have the risk of several people in your household pressing the dash button by mistake and generating massive revenues for Amazon (either intentionally or by mistake).

Amazon’s bet is that we hate the process of buying repetitive things such as: detergent, water bottles, Gatorade, Cheez-it[3], etc. Another reason is that our lives have become so busy we keep adding products we need to lists and don’t ever buy them (or buy them from one of Amazon’s competitors instead of entering their website).

This new product has created opportunities for Amazon’s business model. Since theses buttons are personalized for a specific product and tend not to carry competing dash button products, e.g. the only detergent they currently carry is Tide. They create an opportunity to have the customer place these buttons within their home and allow in this case P&G to market themselves continuously in a user’s home. This permits Amazon to generate revenues from both the sale of the product and the promotion generated by the dash buttons.

This product also creates an aggressive market share growth approach for Amazon to get rid of the competition. If you buy a Tide dash button it is unlikely that you will ever buy Tide from an Amazon competitor, in a sense you are taking the consumer captive for specific products.

While I understand the benefits this product generates to both consumers and Amazon this product certainly arises some concerns. This is a very new product that is aiming to change the way we purchase products, however with the current dash button I see more advantages for Amazon than the actual customer which could endanger their customer loyalty.

Amazon became popular for having a customer-centric approach and being able to deliver a better consumer experience than its competitors. With products like the dash button, it makes me think they might be moving away from this strategy. Amazon seems to be tailoring towards specific brands to improve their margins through marketing fees for these dash buttons. Additionally, since not all brand sizes or packages are offered it makes you think that Amazon might be trying to push their slow-moving inventory using this product.

Another attractive characteristic of Amazon is that they allowed consumers to buy and compare products through reviews written by other consumers or get the best price for a detergent given their massive product lines. With this new product, you are unable to do so. As we mentioned you become captive to Tide for detergent and you will most likely end up paying more as you will not be as aware of price changes or sales in certain products.

In a sense this product also feels like they under deliver on their promise. The ads for this product make it seem like you will press a button and the product will appear instantly at your doorstep. I am sorry if you ran out of toilet paper and are desperately pressing the Charmin dash button[4]. Your product will be arriving in 48 hours. And many other examples can be shown.


I think several changes need to be implemented to address these issues:

  • Program which product you want to be linked to your dash button, out of all the products available in the Amazon website. Increasing dramatically the availability of products for these dash buttons
  • Receive notifications of a specific sale for that product or a similar product when you press the button
  • Receive notifications when a considerable price change occurs for the product
  • Will work much better when paired with same day deliver products, possibly through Amazon Prime Now[5]

It seems at this point it is focused on early adapters and they are trying to improve the product. I am very eager to find where this product might lead. Since several analyses have shown that people who use credit cards have a higher willingness to pay than people who use cash.[6] It will be interesting to analyze if people who use dash buttons will spend even more. Given that people love pressing buttons (If you’ve never pressed every button in an elevator you have not lived).

Companies seem to be trying to convert anything into an IoT device, so there are some products that are starting to feel a bit ridiculous[7]. Let’s hope the dash button does not become one of these products.

(821 words)

[1] https://www.cnet.com/news/appliance-science-how-the-amazon-dash-button-works/

[2] http://phoenix.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2215338

[3] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01L85KERY/ref=s9_acsd_al_bw_c_x_1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-3&pf_rd_r=E41N3DG3QJ1XS5TJ16G8&pf_rd_r=E41N3DG3QJ1XS5TJ16G8&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=d3453ebd-c100-4231-9761-0a427be11048&pf_rd_p=d3453ebd-c100-4231-9761-0a427be11048&pf_rd_i=10667898011

[4] https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-JK29LP-Charmin-Dash-Button/dp/B01C3JAQDQ

[5] https://primenow.amazon.com/onboard?sourceUrl=%2F

[6] http://web.mit.edu/simester/Public/Papers/Alwaysleavehome.pdf

[7] http://readwrite.com/2016/03/24/iot-overload-vr1/


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Student comments on April Fool’s joke or dash buttons taking over your home?

  1. I think the dash button is a great stepping stone towards a future where all goods are delivered to an end user exactly when they need them. Amazon started by offering subscription purchases of household items like detergent, including steep discounts, but I expect that people dont have a strong understanding of what their future needs will be. By providing them with a dash button, amazon can collect real-time information on the use of these products without the time lag of them having to log on and actually purchase the item. By building up these usage patterns in real time, amazon can then return and say ‘you purchase every 2 weeks, on average, would you like to start a subscription at ~5% off?’. In this way, I see that dash button as a an acquisition tool that Amazon is using to migrate customers onto subscription purchase agreements, increasing the stickiness of certain products as well as the channel. Can’t wait for a time when dash buttons can be customized with any product you want!

  2. It’s so interesting to think about the role of these types of devices in the future and if they are merely a technological stepping stone, or part of every future household. I often wonder if we are in the height of visible technology presence in our lives given that so many of these innovations are new and as technology progressives it will actually become less visible as we integrate it more seamlessly into our lives. This is a perfect example of how consumers moved from physical offline shopping, to digital shopping to now a mixed experience.

    I agree that your pricing concern is a real one for consumers. Even if Amazon sends a consumer the lowest cost Tide item available per ounce, consumers used to price comparing over the internet may still be skeptical. A distrust could form, which I agree is against Amazon’s consumer-first mentality. Another issue I see is in these buttons being limited to one brand per category. I understand it from a competitive standpoint for Tide, but if Tide has a major scandal next year or if Amazon sees The Honest Company rising, do they suddenly switch the brand on the buttons? It essentially establishes Amazon as a “king maker” or “king keeper” that breeds a lack of competition amongst brands on the platform.

  3. Adding to the improvement list here:
    1. Set a simple password and confirmation button so that people don’t have to wait the next day before they are allowed to order more toilet paper
    2. Add ability to (re)order basket of favorite items, the analogy would be your favorite playlist on AppleMusic or Spotify
    3. Have smaller package sizes (think Dollarama) perhaps thereby allowing Amazon to increase margins as well. Value for consumer will be less cupboard space. Given the prevalence of shoebox apartments, millenials living in big cities will appreciate more space; I believe this will be insanely popular

  4. Thanks for the interesting article, Patrick. I think it’s a very smart move on Amazon’s part IF they can limit the buttons to high-margin products. However, many of the consumer goods for which they offer buttons are necessities of a sort, and people will always have to order their next bottle of detergent or shampoo. My concern is that with the button, Amazon might alienate suppliers from smaller brands who don’t have buttons like P&G does. And is Amazon self-cannibalizing ancillary revenues that they could be getting from someone buying their next bottle of detergent online? To me, the Amazon shopping experience can be a long experience. I’d start with the intent to make a specific transaction, but get distracted by all of the merchandising (“people who were interested in this product also bought…”, or, “you might also like…”). In many situations I end up purchasing more than I’d originally intended, from other product categories. Could these buttons reduce that behavior amongst shoppers to such an extent that this loss outweighs the benefits of the buttons?

    Also, I was intrigued by your comment “Given that people love pressing buttons (If you’ve never pressed every button in an elevator you have not lived).” Reddit did an experiment on people’s urge to push buttons and delayed gratification. Here’s a quick synopsis from this article http://gizmodo.com/why-we-always-want-to-push-the-big-red-button-1723914709 — “Back in April, Reddit launched an April Fool’s joke-turned-social experiment simply called “The Button.” It involved a timer counting back from 60 to zero. However, if another person somewhere out there on the interwebs pressed the button, the timer reset. It was kind of a case study in delayed gratification, since users tried to keep the timer running so the experiment could be successful. But someone in the world was always ready to click, which screwed everything up. At last, in early June, it reached zero—even though it took more than months and one million clicks.” Here is another article about Reddit’s experiment that you might find interesting: http://gizmodo.com/people-got-so-into-this-strange-internet-button-they-ma-1700779699

  5. I love the idea of the dash button personally – how often have I run out of dishwashing detergent, then forgot to buy it during my next shopping trip, ended up in a state where I tried to squeeze the last drop out of the bottle (filling it up with water, the classic) or letting the dishes wait another couple of days – the dash button would have saved me, my flatmates and my dishes a dozens of times!

    All of your criticism about how it may not benefit the consumer is very well taken, yet I also wonder, just as with Nic, whether the single button also harms Amazon, at least from a profit perspective. Many of the products available through the dash button seem to be cheap, but heavy or bulky products (think Dasani water bottles, Tide detergent, toilet paper). Given that co-purchases are almost eliminated through the button-click, it seems that shipping costs per kg would be significantly higher for Amazon than it for when customers shop online?

  6. Like Rudi Gassner, Amazon wants to turn off your brain when you walk into your house. It is incredible to me that Amazon is able to so successfully make people think they can’t live without this type of technology. The thing is, with this dash button, the jury is still out with whether or not this is a product people really want/need.

    As noted in one Time article [1], the reason many people became Amazon users in the first place is because of its lowest prices. By blindly buying these products now with the push of a button, consumers have no idea how or if prices have changed or if they are even getting the best value. As one user stated about the dash button, “if I have to check on the price every time, it’s not actually saving me time.” And this is why I think this product is going to fail to gain mass adoption in the long run. As soon as a user, such as the one listed above from the Time article finds that her 12-pack of Gatorade went from $9 for one order to $22 for the next, there is the real likelihood that users will not only stop blindly using this dash product, but Amazon may also destroy the goodwill it has so hard to generate [1].

    For now, I will stick to getting coupons from the circulars… I have no shame in clipping a few coupons and saving myself $5-$10 on some things by making sure I am getting the best price. Based on my -$100k income as an HBS student and Spangler’s generous unsubsidized meal prices of $8-10 for a sandwich, I can take the extra 2 minutes to make sure that Amazon isn’t ripping me off on Tide.

    [1] http://time.com/money/4383797/amazon-dash-buttons-worth-it-value/

  7. Very much agree with your suggestion to have the Dash be programmed to items of choice but I di believe that Amazon is getting perhaps some kind of royalties from the CPG companies which would be taken away if the product becomes generic. Given the limited advantage to the consumer (vs the 1 click buy button or the Amazon devices) I do not see how the Dash would wonder why Delta did not partner weith SITA instead of making such a large investment. Granted the cost is lower than the recovery prices you quoted but perhaps the funds could have been used to get a more revolutionary technology?

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