Amazon Dash Button Not Ready for Prime Time

August 5, 2015

5:00 pm

One button to rule them all, one button… to ensure you never run out of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese! Whether it was the timing of the initial introduction, the day before April Fools, or simply the concept, many did not take the Amazon Dash Button seriously. However, this week Amazon officially launched the $5 buttons to Prime members, making it easier for people to purchase goods with a press of the button.

Each Dash Button is branded with a common household name such as Gatorade, Gillette, and Tide, and with a simple press of the button Amazon Prime members automatically place an order. This works by tapping into Amazon’s One-Click order option, and about two minutes or so of setup time. Simply pop the button out of the box, get it connected to your home wifi, pair it with your Amazon app, and select which specific product you want.

Currently there are 18 limited edition Dash Buttons available, each paired to a specific brand and set of products. In all, the following have buttons available: Bounty, Tide, Cottonelle, Glad, Clorox, Gatorade, Maxwell House, smartwater, Izze, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Larabar, Olay, Gillette, L’Oreal, Gerber, Huggies and Wellness.

Considering how easy the button is to use, one might be concerned about their child, dog, or inebriated friends repeatedly pressing it, and a few days later you have a year’s supply of toilet paper. Amazon of course put in safeguards to reduce the possibility of excessive ordering in two ways: only one purchase can be made at a time, and alerts are sent to your phone through the app. If for some reason you felt like removing the governor on the button, you can also enable multiple purchases with the button. That doesn’t seem like a good choice though.

To test things out, we acquired the Tide and Glad buttons.

Reviewing the Amazon Dash Button

The setup process was painless, except for remembering my WIFI password, and after searching through about 10 different options for each, the buttons were ready to go. Prior to this, I avoided turning on one-click purchases, which forced me to go to the Amazon site just to adjust the shipping speed. In doing so, it was interesting to see that there was no same day shipping option either, and in Washington DC several of the items (after hitting a spending threshold) are eligible. With the button setup, there was only one thing left to do.

But… I didn’t press the button. I realized I still had several laundry pods handy and several weeks worth of trash bags in the pantry. At this point in the testing period, I came to the realization that having a specific button to replenish products that don’t deplete on a weekly basis just seemed ridiculous. Do you really need Mac and Cheese to show up two days after you want it? No, certainly not. If I’m hungry, you’d want that button to deliver already cooked cheesy goodness right to your door on the same day.

The same situation is mirrored across each of the selections available, and by removing the steps of going to the store or looking at competitor options, you may be spending more than necessary too. Over-convenience isn’t necessarily a good tradeoff for savings, regardless of how little that may be, especially when that is one of the benefits of using Amazon in the first place.

Overthinking aside, the Dash Button certainly has potential, but there needs to be a few components added in. Same day delivery would be my biggest request, as to me, the press of a button symbolizes instant gratification. Without that and added a day or two in between, it’s just like any other order. Second, they should, and probably will, create a generic button that you can pair to any product rather than limited to specific brands. Forget paper towels on demand, why not the weekly office candy supply? Dog food? Forget that, how about dog poop bags. Moreover, where they have Amazon Pantry, pairing a button to a favorite weekly order would be simply amazing.

In all, for $5 nobody is breaking the bank, but the available services tied to a press of a button are lackluster. I’m currently hoping someone decides to just hack it for an instant pizza button, but that’s just wishful thinking.

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@)elliotvolkman.com or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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