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Dashing to the Future

With the increasing ubiquity of online shopping and activity even in the third world, Amazon is proactively trying to make itself more appealing to its demographic with the almost-gimmicky solution called Dash. Launched in late Q1 of 2015, it was the follow up to the Amazon Dash Barcode Scanner which is essentially a Wi-Fi connected shopping list creator that used a (you guessed it!) barcode scanner supplemented by voice recognition. The Dash;s sibling was meant to be kept in the kitchen by the fridge, so anyone in the family can add items to the online grocery list.

The Replenishment Service

The button and its accompanying Dash Replenishment Service were announced just before April Fools, causing people to doubt the truth of its revelation. But what is the Dash exactly? Well, it’s a small device that connects to your Wi-Fi network and can be tied to your Amazon Prime account. It has a button emblazoned with the name of a product of your choice (as long as it has its own Dash Button in the Amazon site) and pressing it will order that particular product and will be shipped out to you automatically. It requires a bit of initial setup, but is supposed to seamlessly replenish your supply before you run out.

The Dash is an admittedly novel idea and is something that Amazon can use with its Prime membership program to leverage its advantages, making it a device that will make life easier for people who constantly use their service.

Eligibility and Protection

Only Amazon Prime subscribers can order and use Amazon Dash. It makes sense because Prime members get the two-to-five-day shipping, and time is always of the essence when it comes to essential household supplies.

The buttons also have order protection and orders products only at the first press until the product is delivered. This is handy for when you’ve got kids messing about all the time. Once an order is placed, your phone will receive a notification for that order and you have half an hour to cancel the order before it is shipped.

Only users with mobile devices running iOS 8.3 above or Android 4.1 or higher can use the Dash Buttons.

The Good Stuff

While Dash weren’t meant to completely replace your grocery shopping habits, they do a good job of supplementing your shopping in practice. You’ve surely been at a point where you just came home from the store and completely forgot about picking up some dishwashing soap. So instead of disrupting your busy schedule tomorrow, you can just boop that button right by your sink and expect a delivery in a couple of days.

How quick the service is really depends on how you view the minimum two-day delivery, but Amazon has grown a stellar reputation of having good delivered on time or even earlier than expected.

Additionally, Amazon sweetens the deal by giving you $4.99 worth of credit for the particular product when you first press the Dash. That’s all the initial cost of the button can use for resupplying your household. Sweet deal.

The Not-So-Good Stuff

If you’ve got a Prime membership, it would follow that you’re looking to save from the free shipping. One problem, especially if you’re living on a tight weekly budget, is if prices suddenly change for the product you frequently use. You ordered a bunch of them using the device, assuming you preset it to order around five pieces, without knowing about the price change. What could be a negligible price increase has ruined your weekly budget.

Another potential concern is the hassle of changing the variant of a product you wish to order. For instance, you stock up on Grape Gatorade but decide to change to the new Green Apple flavor. In order to make the button order Green Apple, you have to enter the settings menu on the Amazon app and change your preferences. Additionally, if you use two variants of the same product, you will have to get separate Dash Buttons corresponding to each of those items.

Finally, there are some security concerns that have been brought to Amazon’s attention but weren’t really satisfyingly addressed. In May 2016, Consumers’ Research found that the devices were hackable. While the hacks are just pranks by nature, such as causing the button to order pizza or control your lights when pressed, these just made the buttons a pain to use. Amazon “fixed” the issue by allowing users to modify the Buttons’ software, something that’s good for experienced programmers but really useless to folk with no programming knowledge at all.

Is it the Future of Consumerism?

According to a Time article, it’s not likely. Since Amazon launched the Dash Button, less than half of the buyers actually used them once. The underlying problem is that Amazon has taught its customers to shop around for the best prices and being smart with their purchases. Without any sort of convenient display to tell you where to get the best prices for items, the button pretty much defeats the purpose of using it to buy smart. It appeals to the part of your psyche that would prefer convenience over cost-efficiency, which is a luxury not many can afford anyway.

In the end the concept was made with good intentions, that is, enhanced convenience. But what ended up being a boon for customers ended up being a contradiction to what years of Amazon shopping has taught–getting the best value.

Published in Consumer Technology

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