Automatic Replenishment – A New Way To Buy

Back in March 2015, Amazon released its “Dash Replenishment System” (DRS) for household consumers. The product started out with the “Dash Button” that could be integrated with in-home appliances such as washing machines. The DRS product had a rocky launch, but 10 months later, Amazon allowed its partners to begin reordering products for customers. At that same time, Whirlpool announced a new line of appliances that would be compatible with the replenishment service.

In 2017 Amazon reported that orders via the “Dash Button” were placed around four times per minute. With the growing trend in DRS use, Amazon has dominated this new market, but Target has recently announced its  service “Target Fetch,” meant to compete with the Amazon Dash button.

Target’s system uses Bluetooth technology to connect devices that monitor supplies of items such as toilet paper and hand soap. Target’s system is different from Amazon’s in that the household items can “sense” when a new order needs to be placed. For example, using a paper towel holder that monitors the amount of paper towel remaining.

Amazon’s DRS uses Wi-Fi connected devices to place orders or are directly built in to appliances. Brita, for example, has developed a Wi-Fi connected water pitcher to reorder filters when needed from Amazon.

On May 1, 2018 Target began their beta testing campaign through a crowdfunding service, allowing consumers to pay $40 for the beta trial. CNET reports that the devices will arrive to beta testers in October of this year.

Amazon has responded to Target’s “Fetch” system by promoting a startup company, WePlenish, through the DRS. The first such product is the “WePlenish Java” container, which holds k-cups and other coffee related items and senses when they are running low. The container is compatible with 90 different Amazon items.

While these devices are certainly convenient, there are a few issues that could arise for some consumers. As Digital Trends points out, “various aspects of what is ordered can be uncontrollable”. Prices for goods may change without user’s knowledge, and users are locked into one particular brand per “Dash Button.

Another issue some consumers might have with the DRS is delivery time. The DRS utilizes Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping, while consumers might want to select one-day or same-day shipping, which is available only for certain products, with orders over a certain dollar benchmark, and only in certain markets.

Alcoholic beverage distributor Campari America has launched magnets that can be used to order more of the company’s products. Each magnet corresponds with a different type of liquor, such as Skyy Vodka, and can be scanned with NFC technology from a smartphone. Users can touch their device to the magnet and adjust quantity, flavor, and add discounts all with same day delivery from a local retailer.

As far as the future implications of automatic replenishment are concerned, studies done recently have shown mixed feelings from consumers. According to a survey by Oracle in July 2017, among the nearly 15,000 consumers polled, 48 percent of respondents thought automatic replenishment would be “important to their experience in the future.” 33 percent believed that it would be “creepy” if supermarkets automatically reordered and shipped items for customers based on data, such as the date of last purchase.

Another study, done by marketing firm A.T. Kearney, looked at the prospect of automatic replenishment for beauty and personal care products. Of the 800 respondents, 53 percent believed that automatic monthly replenishment was not important.

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