“Share of Buttons”? Yeah, that’s a Thing Now.

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Last night, I logged onto Amazon looking for a new book to download (let’s all just assume it was something really smart about innovation strategy and not the latest Young Adult dystopian future novel series, shall we?). As soon as I logged on, I was presented with a home screen image of a hand, holding a button-like contraption with a Tide logo on it. As a Prime member, Amazon tells me, I have exclusive access to Amazon Dash. I make a mental note to figure out what this is tomorrow and settle into my dystopian future novel riveting book about innovation strategy.

Enter tomorrow, and my inbox and newsfeeds are flooded with articles about Amazon Dash. Is it an April Fool’s Joke, some of the articles wonder? No, but perhaps a brilliantly timed launch to get people asking the question and talking about it. Did it just change the future of shopping? Did the Internet of Things just reach a tipping point? Yes, no, maybe, depending on which article you read. Working primarily in CPG, my first thoughts were around how something like Dash could impact my CPG clients…and also, that Dash seems coincidentally like it was just ripped from the world described in my innovation strategy book dystopian future novel.

What is Dash and why do I care?

Put simply, it is Amazon’s 1 Click Ordering, now in physical form, right there in my house. It’s a little button, or rather, many little buttons I can choose from. I get a button, say a Tide Pod button, or a Cottonelle, or a Gilette button, place it where convenient in my house (it comes with adhesive and hooks for easy placement), for instance on the bathroom counter or adhered to my washing machine. When I’m running low on Tide Pods, I push the button. The button is synced to the Amazon smartphone app and just by pushing the button once, I now have a refill order of Tide Pods on its way to my house.

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Already, there are over 250 products/buttons available on Amazon’s website, with a promise of many more to come. Dash 2.0 is already in the works – Dash Replenishment Service, which will allow appliances, like Whirlpool washing machines, to automatically sense when I’m running low on certain consumables (coffee, laundry detergent) and re-order them for me automatically – thank god, I’ll no longer have to go to the trouble of pushing a button anymore.

As a CPG marketer, why do you care about Amazon’s latest innovation? Because if you’re not Cottonelle in toilet paper or Tide in laundry detergent, you’ve got a problem with me (and likely many of my Millennial friends)…I just ordered their buttons, and by default, I just became 100% brand loyal to those brands.

“Share of Buttons”?  Yeah, that’s a Thing now.

That’s right. I just gave my loyalty to Cottonelle and Tide. Or any of 250+ other brands. Not because they are necessarily better, or better priced. Just because they have buttons, and I don’t have to think about buying toilet paper and laundry detergent anymore. If you don’t have a button, how do you even get in my consideration set anymore? Because I’ve actually stopped considering the category entirely. I just push a button, and it shows up at my house.

The Internet of Things, Dash buttons, automatic replenishment of supplies by our smart homes and our smart appliances, automatic re-orders of previous purchases, and all the ways our arsenal of everyday products can just arrive at our houses now fundamentally changes the way we interact with brands and categories. Because we don’t have to interact with them anymore. The challenge for CPG marketers in this dystopian world of the Internet of Things is: how to become the brand consumers rely on within a category so they can stop thinking about the category entirely?

You’ve got to get your button in my house.

Which means developing an Internet of Things strategy that partners with retailers, partners with appliance/durables makers, or markets directly to me to get me not just to buy your product each time at the store, but to get me to install your button, your app, buy the washing machine that automatically re-orders your detergent, or whatever, so that I automatically buy your product every time.

But you’ve also got to think about how many buttons I’m willing to put in my house.

I make toilet paper…but now I compete against razors?! 

You sure do. Just thinking about the bathroom, I could have buttons for a smorgasbord of shampoos, conditioners, hair sprays, make-up, skin care, soap, razors, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.

Because the reality is, I’m not going to decorate my bathroom with dozens of Dash buttons, even if they are all for different categories of things I need. Which means your Internet of Things strategy must also think about how to compete against adjacent categories for “share of buttons.” Because I’m going to stick either a razor button or a toothpaste button on my bathroom counter, but not both.

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Similarly, if you’ve got an app for that instead of a button, I might download a couple of CPG apps and a couple of retail apps, but I’m not going to download all of them. Now you’re competing against other apps for share of my phone space!

I’m also only going to buy so many washing machines and coffee makers, and if I want them to do my product shopping for me, I’m going to be buying whichever consumable brand with which my appliances have partnered. Here at least you’re still competing within your category, but selling to a different customer. In addition to consumers and retailers, you’ve also got to think about how to get your detergent or coffee partnered with the appliance makers and other adjacent categories innovating around the Internet of Things.

Dashing into the Future of Innovation

Share of buttons – that just became something we have to think about and act against. Yep, in addition to share of volume, share of sales, share of shelf, share of wallet, and share of voice, we’ve got to be thinking about “share of buttons” –  which not only means actual Dashbuttons (or share of apps, or share of washing machines) but more broadly, thinking about a CPG world in which increasingly, consumers are shifting from low involvement to no involvement with apps, websites, buttons and even household appliances that can auto-order CPG products for consumers.

In the world of today, despite the numerous predictions over the years of an explosion in digital CPG marketing and shopping behavior, it’s still only a fraction of overall CPG sales and marketing. The Internet of Things is still more of a discussion topic than an everyday reality. And who knows when the tipping point will be for the digital CPG world.  But there will be one.

In the meantime, what the launch of Dash does underscore is that the next big thing to grow share, or sales, in a CPG category might not have anything to do with new product development within the category, but have everything to do with how people interact with (or don’t) the category, how they shop (or don’t), or which player in the category had the foresight to partner with the washing machine maker or the e-tailer on their new innovation.