Amazon’s Dash Buttons Have Met Their End. Does Their Demise Truly Signal Failure?

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The debut of Amazon’s Dash buttons in 2015 marked the beginning of a new era in smart home technology. The keychain-size electronic devices, emblazoned with brand name logos, were designed to make it easier for people to re-order their favorite products from Amazon. While Dash buttons had their detractors from the very beginning, Amazon’s recent decision to stop selling the internet-connected devices has caused grief among dedicated fans and CPG brands.

Brand names like Tide, Charmin, Huggies, and Ziploc were some of the biggest winners in Amazon’s Dash experiment. Amazon Prime members could quickly reorder their favorite brand name household products with the click of a button, and because there was no visual interface, they weren’t spending time comparing prices before they clicked “buy.”

So what went wrong?

Dash buttons were met with detractors right from the get go. Some called out the “hideous” design, while others lambasted Amazon for creating $5 buttons that would inevitably end up in landfills. But at Amazon, the Dash button initiative isn’t considered a failure. Rather, the project was designed to get consumers more comfortable with the “connected home” concept and the idea of shopping through devices other than desktop computers and smartphones.

The discontinuation of Dash buttons is another example of Amazon staking more claim over its share of life and share of wallet, says Howard Schneider, vice president of loyalty strategy at Kobie Marketing.

Having sold more than 100 million Alexa devices, as of January of this year, it makes more sense for Amazon to centralize its ordering process as the company works its way into the center of consumers’ lives.

But where does the current state of affairs leave CPG brands that had their own Dash buttons?

The way Schneider sees it, Dash buttons or no Dash buttons, those brands are losing a chunk of their “share of life.” Dash buttons represented one way for brands to embed themselves into the customer buying journey and cultivate loyalty with habit-driven customers.

“CPG brands traditionally have not had direct relationships with consumers; the relationships were owned by retailers. And because of this, CPG faces far more challenges in driving loyal behavior than retailers,” Schneider says.

The key to creating those relationships will be to do what brands like Procter & Gamble have done with Pampers, which is to embrace subscription re-orders with major retailers like Amazon, Target, and Walmart.

“CPG companies must recognize the power of smart assistant-enabled distribution partners like Amazon and negotiate the best deals with smart assistant-enabled distribution partners Google, Apple, and Amazon — the same way they have traditionally brokered deals for physical shelf space,” Schneider says.

Amazon’s decision to stop selling Dash buttons also signals a shift in consumer retail habits. Although Dash buttons were designed to feel instantaneous, consumers still had to wait two to three days to receive their products after hitting their buttons. That time delay, along with the inability to compare prices, may have seemed acceptable when Dash buttons were launched in 2015, but four years later, consumers have more options.

With Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program, for example, regular shipments of products regularly show up at consumers’ doorsteps. In addition to auto-ordering goods, the Subscribe & Save program also notifies consumers when prices have changed on the products they regularly order.

“The demise of Dash buttons is really about the evolution of technology, how consumers adapt, and whether they adopt,” Schneider says. “The pace of innovation now is such that, by the time the Dash button gained traction with a fair number of consumers, it was already made obsolete by mobile- and voice-driven commerce and new subscription and replenishment models that provide an even smoother path to purchase.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.