By Is automated ordering the future of retail?

When Amazon launched its Dash button in April 2014, people wondered if this might be an April Fool.

The plastic branded button connected to the Amazon Prime app and allowed shoppers to replenish their favourite household goods instantly.

Once consumers bought the wireless device (the cost of which was discounted from their first purchase) it automatically ordered goods with no logging in or confirmation of payment necessary.

Sceptics in the US questioned the intelligence of receiving bulk orders of items like toilet rolls or dishwasher tablets.

But Amazon is rolling out its Dash Replenishment Service (DRS) to brands in the UK, enabling the internet of things devices to automatically re-order supplies when they run low.

The Dash button means consumers can order brands such as Ariel, Andrex and Finish literally at the touch of a button, saving them from lugging them home from the supermarket.

From a marketer’s perspective, people buy on emotion. Automation tools means shoppers won’t have time to forge an emotional connection to certain household brands. But the convenience is undeniable and this will go a long way towards creating customer loyalty.

And Amazon’s trailblazing move has prompted Tesco to explore an automated ordering system, by partnering with a service called If This Then That (IFTTT).

The software makes it possible to connect Twitter with a Tesco online account, as an example, and instruct IFTTT to add beer to a shopping basket when the user tweets #Iwantbeer. Or it could be programmed to automatically buy an item if Tesco’s price drops.

These systems are not without their flaws. The Dash buttons are restricted to one brand. So it relies on levels of brand loyalty - it would not suit the bargain hunter who likes to shop around for the cheapest washing powder on a regular basis.

Critics also point out that not everyone wants to miss out on the entertainment aspect of going shopping, looking around, grabbing a coffee, and so on. There are varying types of consumer buying behaviour, and a nation of shoppers is not about to be instantly replaced by a nation of automatons.

But big name retailers know the importance of consumer behaviour. For them to invest so heavily in these sort of systems, there has to be a market.

Ecommerce development is also leaning towards the lazy buyer - who wants to make repeat purchases with the minimum effort.

We Are Social is behind the Domino’s pizza-ordering chatbot, which lets consumers order simply by contacting the brand via Facebook Messenger and typing "pizza".

This is Domino’s "Easy Order" service for loyal customers. Pizza lovers log their delivery details, payment method and favourite pizza with the brand. Easy Order lets them order food in quick and easy ways, by using the bot or tweeting Domino’s with a pizza emoji. A fifth of all Easy Order customers signed up for the Messenger bot after its launch in August, and 12% went on to use it for orders.

Social media is definitely trying to cash in on this new retail trend of purchases at the push of a button. Instagram has announced it will make it easier for users to buy products tagged in its photos. Pinterest also began rolling out "buy buttons" in 2015, to help users purchase items they see on the visual platform.

The high street has already adapted to the needy consumer with click-and-collect services.

At John Lewis, this method accounts for more than half its online orders. And the service has proved so popular for Tesco that it has raised the minimum spend for consumers.

It seems the future of shopping is at the touch of a button.


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