Perhaps one of the best marketing stunts of the last decade was the Staples “easy button.” The now-iconic red plastic buttons hit stores in late 2005. They took two batteries and, when pressed, announced to listeners, “That was easy!” That’s all they did. Customers loved it. By June 2006, Staples was on track to sell its millionth one. Still, the easy button was an idea before its time—a fantasy that the mere push of a button could, in fact, be enough to make something happen easily.
Nearly 10 years later, Amazon is introducing a button that actually does what Staples only imagined. Amazon’s version, called the “Dash Button,” is about the size of a thumb drive and facilitates preset orders of a product with a single touch. To accomplish this, each dash button is tied to a specific brand—current choices include Bounty, Huggies, Clorox, Tide, and Gatorade. They come with adhesive on the back and connect to your Wi-Fi. So you might stick your Tide dash button on your laundry machine and your Gatorade dash button inside your fridge. Then, when that stock of Glacier Freeze starts to run low, you simply push the button to initiate a refill. Two days later, Amazon drops the order off at your house.
So, yes, it’s a real-life easy button. You don’t need to punch in your order online. You don’t need to enter an address or credit card information. Button, push, done. Right now, Amazon says the dash button is a limited-time, invitation-only offer for Amazon Prime members. To request one, you can click here and sign into Prime.
For Amazon, filling homes with dash buttons promises to make its addictively easy shopping platform even easier. It’s also clearly a way to build brand loyalty and get consumers to pay premiums. Need laundry detergent now? Sure, another brand might be a little cheaper, but why spend five minutes price comparing when you could spend five seconds hitting a button by your machine? Amazon has actually been testing its dash buttons for the past year, but this is the first time it’s making them widely available to Prime members.
Amazon is also taking things one step further, launching what it calls the “Dash Replenishment Service.” The idea is that companies can essentially build sensors into their products that will set off refills when the product level gets too low. You can imagine, for example, a smart coffee dispenser that automatically orders more beans when you only have a few days’ worth left. Eventually, such sensors would eliminate the need for Amazon’s dash buttons altogether. If only they’d eliminate our need to press buttons that say funny things as well.