Amazon.com introduced a device Tuesday with which customers can reorder products with, literally, the push of a button.
The Seattle retailer's Dash Button is a physical version of its 1-click ordering. The user sets up the device to correspond to a certain product (say, a 24-pack of Bounty paper towel rolls) and sticks the device in a convenient place (say, inside the cabinet where paper towels are kept). When the supply runs low, the user can press the button to order more of that product.
Despite speculation that the Dash Button is an early April Fools' Day joke, Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall assured the Los Angeles Times that it's real.
The device is free, connects directly to Wi-Fi and is about the size of a pack of gum, Pearsall said. It's currently available to Amazon Prime members by invitation only.
A total of 255 products from 18 brands are available through the Dash Button program. They include Gerber baby formula, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Maxwell House coffee, Glad trash bags, Gillette razors and Tide laundry detergent, among other items.
When the button is pushed, the user receives a cellphone notification and can cancel the order within 30 minutes, Pearsall said.
And there's no need to worry that overzealous button-pushing will lead to a deluge of the product. As a default setting, the Dash Button program will handle only one order at a time, Pearsall said: "If you already have paper towels on the way, we won't send you another order."
The program does not replace Amazon's Subscribe & Save program, through which customers can place monthly recurring orders at a discount.
"The subscription service works super well for things you can predict how often you're going to need them," Pearsall said, but the button can work better for people who can't predict how often they'll need to replace something.
Alongside the Dash Button, Amazon also announced the more versatile Dash Replenishment Service, which can order products without any human intervention. The service can be integrated into Web-connected products so that, say, a printer running low on ink will place the order for cartridges on its own.
The first products to integrate Dash Replenishment Service include Brother printers, Whirlpool washers and dryers, Brita water pitchers and a Quirky coffee machine, baby formula maker and pet food dispenser.
The smart pitcher that Brita hopes to make available by the end of the year will determine when to order more filters based on how much water goes through the pitcher, Brita spokesman David Kellis said.
With Whirlpool's Smart Cabrio washer and dryer, due to hit the market this summer, "we'll be looking at things like cycle counts to make better predictions as to the amount of detergent that's being used," said Ben Artis, senior manager for Whirlpool's connected home division.
Companies can now apply to be part of the replenishment service's beta phase, and "in the fall we'll release APIs publicly that people can integrate into their Internet-connected devices," Pearsall said.
Amazon has a history of embracing unusual technology. Last year, the company introduced a different Dash device: a wand-shaped gadget that can scan barcodes and add the products to the user's shopping list.
Amazon also has been exploring the use of drones to deliver packages. This month, the company received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to test an unmanned aircraft design.