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Will amazon’s dash improve the purchase experience?

Amazon’s new shopping aid, Dash, is indeed real. Dash is a physical, standalone button that allows users to make instantaneous purchases just by pressing it.

How Dash works: An Amazon Prime customer orders a Dash button dedicated to a specific product. For example, the customer might select the Cottonelle button. When they’re running low on toilet paper, the customer presses the button which triggers an alert on their mobile device notifying the user the order has been placed. The customer also has the option to cancel the order with this notification if they change their mind.

Dash represents a unique interaction model that consumers, for the first time, are being asked to integrate into their purchasing patterns. As UX professionals, we can apply our working principles to identify personas and scenarios where the tool would benefit the user, and where it would not.

Flexibility and Efficiency of Use

Simply setting up Dash has the potential to tip the scales of efficiency for or against the device. In order to begin using it, the user needs to connect Dash to the same Wi-Fi network that the user’s mobile device is on, and then sync the button to the device via the Amazon website. Not only that, the user then needs to select the item they’d like to associate with the button from the list of eligible products. A tech-savvy user may have an easy time navigating these different devices and interactions, but the experience will need to be seamless. For a less savvy Amazon Prime customer, however, these tasks may represent too great a hurdle to convert to this new technology efficiently. This is especially true in that it will necessarily disrupt their established habits and force them to acquire new ones.

Cognitive Load

Once the initial setup is successful, Dash allows users to make quick decisions by making one judgment factor, the quantity of the toilet paper, very apparent at the time of purchase. The button serves as a salient reminder for the users, drawing attention to the toilet paper running low, therefore allowing them to proactively restock their goods. This decreases the cognitive load in the purchase experience. In particular, convenience seekers and purchasers who don’t actually foot the bill (e.g. household teenagers) might find that Dash allows them to instantly act on the only information that they use.

Visibility of System Status

On the other hand, price-conscious decision makers might find that Dash hides critical information from them. Since Dash can’t actually tell you the price of the product, it is effectively making price information less visible. The user would only be given the price information after committing to purchase, when the order alert pops up on the mobile device. What if Cottonelle is running a sale on 36-packs of toilet paper? If the user knew this, they might consider buying a larger quantity just this once. What if the competitor Charmin is running a sale on 24-packs of toilet paper? Your branded Cottonelle button won’t tell you that either. Dash is very good for replacing one very specific single item, but it comes at the cost of making less informed choices.

Match Between System and the Real World

Generally speaking, hiding the price tag works in Amazon’s favor, because it abstracts the concept of acquiring things from actually paying for things. This interaction model is falling in line with the notion that customers buy more when they are not thinking about the actual money they are spending. This is arguably because the status of a consumer’s available funds becomes more and more hidden. When Apple Pay was released last year, there was excitement among retailers because paying with a phone is even further from cash than a credit card, and that led analysts to suggest people would spend more while using it. A button dedicated to “restocking” one specific item is debatably the most abstract yet.

It will remain to be seen whether it is the interaction that allows Dash to succeed or fail, or if some other factor in the user experience decides its fate. For example, do you want to have a bunch of branded buttons around your home?

Carl Beien and Su Hyun Lee are User Experience Lead Specialists and Tobias Langer is a Senior User Experience Lead Specialist at GfK.

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