Amazon delivery mascot

We often hear that the classic “brand awareness” is history and that modern companies should focus on the customer rather than the product. But is that right?

Ordering with the Internet of Things at the push of a button

The Amazon Dash Button is so simple, that there is hardly any tech company, who wouldn’t have liked to invent it themselves. The preprogrammed button is linked with your own Amazon-account and can do one thing: order a certain product at the push of a button. That’s it.
No bling, no bunch of extra functionalities. With one of the first great (potentially revolutionary) products of the Internet of Things, Amazon brings back simplicity to product design.

Fantastic at first glance and by far more useful than a multi-functional tool like Google Glass,
the value of which – at its rather embarrassing market launch at the time – was not evident to private users despite numerous areas of application. The value of the dash button is clearly evident: no annoying search for the specific product, no frustrating order system, just a push of the button and that’s it. Toilet paper, cat food or detergents – nothing you need to purchase over and over again, will be forgotten.

The 3 major topics around the dash button

There are indeed some security and consumer issues surrounding this type of order, which I would like to address just briefly for the sake of completeness:

  1. Amazon implemented a protection mechanism against multiple orders. Only the first push
    triggers the order, the order can be cancelled and a new order is only possible, when the last one was delivered. Luckily, you won’t end up with a truckload in front of your house by pressing the button multiple times.
  2. The customer orders the product without knowing the price (he will receive this information only later with the order confirmation). Consumer protectionists already assume that this might not be legal in Europe.
  3. As Amazon‘s pricing policy is in parts quite arbitrary in contrast to local supermarkets, customers can’t be granted the best price available. Several media are already forecasting tremendous price increases for certain product groups (up to 27%). Use at the customers’
    own risk?

But let’s get back to our actual topic today: the brand – because the dash button leads to a phenomenon customers haven’t seen for years: a declining choice of products.

The dash button determines the product you are going to use all the time

Humans are creatures of habit, especially, when it comes to shopping. Once you’ve committed yourself to a brand, you remain loyal to it, more or less. But herein lies the attraction and the potential for competitors. It is exactly the researching and gathering of information via online channels that allows customers nowadays more than ever to find their way in the world of products and to make a decision that is not only based on the name recognition of a product’s logo.

The dash button is precisely set to one product, and what’s more, its design incorporates a bold logo of the product brand, sharpening the brand awareness among consumers even more. At the supermarket and also at Amazon at the end of the day you can still chose individually with every single purchase whether to go with a Nestlé or rather a no-name yoghurt. Whereas with the dash button you make a one-time-decision for a certain brand, which is most likely forever.

And that brings me to the next point: the dash button is suitable for well-known brands, but not for no-name products. Currently, it’s the brand leaders’ products, which are being offered, rather than niche products or eco-friendly organic and fair trade alternatives.

This means both, that suppliers inevitably need to cooperate with Amazon (and surely deliver
a few per cent) in order to be considered at all, and that the freedom of choice consumers previously have had when buying or buying online will be taken away from them.

Brands are back in our lives

Indeed, I would dare to say that in many areas of life which are not considered “lifestyle”,
brand awareness has been diluted by the sheer endless abundance of products. Nowadays, a good product design can have more influence on the buying decision than a brand name. Obviously, product features such as quality of ingredients or production characteristics have a strong impact on the decision to purchase a product.

But this won’t really matter, if the dash button is implemented.

The real challenge I can see is the customer experience and the actual advantages of digitalization, which are being reversed by these business activities. Digitalization is designed to give consumers the freedom to decide for themselves, whenever and wherever they would like to gather information or make a purchase, and which channels to pick to get in touch with you.
The customers should choose themselves what’s right for them. Companies who create enhanced customer experiences within the scope of Customer Journey Management dream of customers who turn into buyers because they are the perfect fit for the product or the company.

However, concepts such as the Amazon Dash Button (his actual form, not the idea behind it), and, for example, Apple’s decision to remove a very practical end device functionality in order to strengthen a product whose market is completely dominated by Apple, spoil the customer experience and limit flexibility.

“Our company designs products and offerings for a customer experience, that generates maximum revenue, but is no longer meant to excite the customer and thus, enhance customer loyalty”.
This quote comes from Mark Wilson’s self-experiment to organize his life with dash buttons.
His conclusion after only one week with seven buttons: the customer is left behind:

  1. Humans are used to an immediate reward after pushing a button, that’s why the dash mechanism is less satisfying than one would expect.
  2. The selection of suppliers and products for the button is actually very small and offers only expensive options.
  3. The button does not allow for price comparisons, special offers and promotions or any other options of saving money.

„Why does dash not allow me to program a button with whatever product or at least any product of a specific supplier?” Wilson wonders and adds: “as if putting advertising logos into your home wasn’t enough already, you end up paying a premium”.

In the past I have chosen Apple as an example to explain, why the digitalization of organizations should not be misused to patronize customers and ignore their needs, just for the sake of more profit. I also pondered over the importance of considering the customer benefits in the course of digital transformation.

Yet it is ideas like the dash button that demonstrate how tempting it is for companies to exploit short-term successes at the expense of customer loyalty and confidence. The basic idea of the dash button is fantastic and could become one of the first great success stories of the Internet of Things. Amazon simply had to make it possible for customers to program the button individually with logo and supplier independency as often as he likes.

As long as companies like Amazon and Apple transform their once customer-centric ideas into  mere money machines, digitalization at the end of the day will restrict the customer’s choice more than the limited supply of a small corner shop.

Find out how you can implement and use Customer Journey Management in your company.

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