Amazon.com on Tuesday unveiled its latest effort to bring more speed and convenience to online shopping: A WiFi-connected gadget called the Amazon Dash Button that allows shoppers to refill orders of household staples with the press of a button.
The adhesive buttons are meant to be hung in convenient places around the home — so, for example, you might stick the Tide-branded button on the washing machine or the Huggies button in the nursery. When it's time to restock that item, you push the button, and Amazon will soon ship it to your doorstep.
At launch, the Dash button is only available for a limited number of household staples, such as Cottonelle toilet paper, Bounty paper towels and Glad trash bags. Using the Amazon smartphone app, consumers will configure the button to order exactly what they want — such as a four-pack of Gillette razors or a 12-pack.
Dash buttons are free and are available now to Amazon Prime customers on an invitation-only basis. Amazon has been packing more and more perks into its Prime memberships, including same-day or even one-hour delivery and the ability to stream its exclusive TV programming. All of these efforts are aimed at more deeply entwining Amazon with its customers’ everyday lives, and in turn, boosting Amazon’s sales.
Amazon has set up the Dash Button system so that it’s difficult to, say, end up with a shipment of 20 bottles of laundry detergent if your toddler discovers the bright orange Tide button and finds it really fun to press. Once a Dash Button is pressed one time, it won’t be able to accept another order until the first one has been delivered. You can also opt to receive notifications of Dash Button orders on your phone and can quickly cancel them, if necessary.
The Dash button is a powered by the same technology as Amazon's new Dash Replenishment Service. Appliance and device manufacturers can incorporate DRS technology into their products so that an Internet-connected coffee maker is able to order more beans, or a water filtration pitcher can order more filters. Gadget-makers can use DRS in two different ways: They can make it so that their products include a button that allows the consumer to choose when to place an order, or they can set it up so that orders are filled automatically when something is running low. The first DRS-powered devices will hit stores this fall.
If the Amazon Dash name sounds familiar, it’s because the e-commerce giant rolled out another product under this banner last year. This earlier product is designed to work with AmazonFresh, the company’s grocery delivery service, and allows users to create their grocery lists by scanning barcodes or saying their order into a microphone.
The announcements make clear that Amazon is continuing its exploration of the “connected home” category — industry-speak for the appliances and other ordinary household objects that are connected to wireless Internet. Its Amazon Echo device, for example, is a Bluetooth speaker that also includes voice-recognition technology similar to Apple’s Siri.
(Jeffrey P. Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)