This isn’t the first time I’ve written about an awesome innovation from Amazon. I would stop if they would stop.
While the company’s new streaming media box, Amazon Fire TV, received a greater share of recent headlines, it was the Amazon Dash that grabbed my attention. The Dash is a wand-like wireless device that includes a microphone and a barcode scanner, enabling users to add items to an AmazonFresh shopping list by scanning a product’s bar code or speaking its name. Need apples? Say, “apples” into the microphone and apples will arrive the next day, touts the Dash launch video.
There are plenty of massive retailers that are still trying to figure out how to migrate their bread-and-butter brick-and-mortar business to an e-commerce model, which brings up a new set of challenges in fulfillment and customer service. Meanwhile, Amazon is installing a checkout lane in the kitchen.
I know much of this technology lives inside the smartphones we all carry today. Still, Amazon should be applauded for taking a calculated risk on building a device dedicated to making shopping easier for the things you need every day.
I’ve never used Dash. It could find its way into American homes and quickly settle in that seldom-pulled drawer that acts as a graveyard for remote controls. (For now, the device is available only on a trial basis to Amazon customers in San Francisco and Los Angeles who pay for Amazon’s new Prime Fresh membership, which includes grocery delivery.)
But I believe it’s a glimpse at a whole new era of businesses inventing technologies aimed at making the customer experience frictionless, fully informed, and easy to fix. No matter if you’re selling motorcycles or health care, there exists a better way to provide goods and services to your customers. For instance, consider custom suit maker Arden Reed, which will send a "Tailor Truck" equipped with cutting-edge 3-D body scanning technology to your door. The scanner takes more than 1.5 million body points to create a perfect-fitting suit. Or Hointer, which provides retailers with technologies such as robots that deliver items to an in-store pickup area or a fitting room within 30 seconds.
I see a lot of companies that are constantly playing catch-up. Maybe they’re just now rolling out social media for customer service, or they’re finally getting around to optimizing their website for mobile.
With today’s lightning-quick pace of innovation, a failure to keep pace can turn into a big problem quickly. Businesses become overwhelmed with keeping up with their peers instead of devoting attention to the initiatives that will wow customers and keep them close.
Can you imagine that meeting at Amazon where Dash was hatched? Someone probably said, “What if you could just say ‘apples’ out loud and apples appeared on your doorstep?” Then they made that idea a reality.
I know, I know, Amazon has an army of engineers and the resources to create amazing inventions. But that’s not the point.
The point is that instead of playing catch-up, Amazon built something that customers didn’t even know to ask for. And everyone concerned with creating happy customers has that opportunity.