A recent stat grabbed my attention: Amazon reported that sales of its “Dash” buttons increased by 75 percent in the first quarter 2016. 

The company’s WiFi-enabled buttons allow shoppers to set up one-touch reordering for over 100 products, from cat food to laundry detergent. Outside of the initial setup within the Amazon app, the entire process happens without a screen — it’s a push-button digital experience built for a single purpose. It puts a smile on customers’ faces. And it almost guarantees recurring business.

Dash simplifies the customer’s experience by abstracting digital complexity and distilling that experience into the push of a button. It also shields shoppers’ eyes from competing brands, effectively locking in loyalty. 

Want more detergent? Just press that big plastic button next to your washing machine. Amazon takes care of the rest. 

This raises a great question about the future of digital experiences: do companies need to reevaluate their digital experience strategy to win, serve and retain customers in the so-called “age of the customer”? 

The answer is “yes.” But it doesn’t mean copying Amazon’s playbook to a T. 

Digital Experience in Its Simplest Form

Amazon’s Dash buttons provide a digital experience in and of themselves. They’re hiding the complexity, but using complex digital plumbing to provide customers with a frictionless shopping experience and a convenient and memorable brand interaction. 

The quick takeaway: we need to figure out new ways to simplify the power of the web.

Today’s companies have a tall order: find novel ways to leverage the web as a platform for transaction, experience and getting things done. Like Amazon’s approach with Dash buttons, enterprises have huge opportunities to think beyond the website or even the app to create new, useful and even addictive customer experiences. But to do this requires a change in perspective. 

It’s clear the traditional  website experience is splintering into thousands of different web-enabled touchpoints. It’s up to brands to engineer interactions that can be pushed to any channel — both existing and future — and develop novel ways to leverage the web as a true platform for interaction and transaction.

Convenience Becomes a Key Differentiator

The popularity of Amazon’s screenless Dash buttons presents a major challenge for competitors: grabbing the attention of consumers once they’ve committed to pushing a button for all their reordering needs (or before they do so). 

Say a consumer installs a reorder button for Tide detergent. Where pricing and packaging might attract the consumer to try other brands when shopping for detergent online or in-store, this new purchasing method removes all exposure to competitors. How can other brands compete? 

To find a solution, businesses must take a closer look at what only they can offer shoppers, and align that with the digital experience they provide. To get started, consider questions like:  

  1. What do customers love about my brand that others can’t offer? 
  2. How can I deliver a unique digital experience that goes beyond the typical (in this case, the traditional website shopping process)?
  3. How can I leverage technology to make the customer experience more convenient, compelling or satisfying?
  4. How can I differentiate beyond my product by introducing innovative new ways to engage with customers and keep them happy?

Traditional modes of retail are being disrupted by Dash, and retailers will need to think outside the box to bridge the gap between the physical and digital and reinvent the experience. 

Imagine my favorite big-name bookstore won’t honor the online price of a new book. Even if I want the hard copy, I’m probably going to buy the e-book instead to save money. However, by the time I’ve made this decision, I’ve already walked into the store, picked up the book and waited in line, only to walk out frustrated because the digital and brick and mortar experiences — specifically, the pricing — weren’t aligned. 

As we acclimate to living in a digital world, customers are going to begin to expect more connected commerce experiences. Dash is an ultimate example of frictionless commerce, and brands need to step up their game and smooth out the buying process to compete. 

We’ve already seen innovation and potential ideas in many different markets. Tesla owners can press a button on an app to diagnose the health of its vehicle or to start the car. Panera and Starbucks each allow customers to pre-order so their food or drink is ready when they arrive. 

No one-size-fits-all way is out there to create a frictionless commerce experience, but technology has created a reality ripe with opportunity to serve and retain customers. It’s not just about marketing on a website anymore — it’s about delivering the best possible service to gain the win and foster long-term loyalty.

Digital Opportunity 

For digital professionals, using the right tools to support a strategy that improves the shopping experience presents a big opportunity to create winning moments for customers and think about the web in new ways. With the right tools in hand, the next game-changing innovation could be right around the corner. 

Two decades ago, Continental Airlines was the first US airline to take what was then was a big leap: to install self-service airport kiosks to streamline the check-in experience. It was a disruptive idea and showed Continental understood that not everyone needs to wait in line and interact with a person to get a boarding pass. Soon, other airlines installed similar technology. 

Past customer experience breakthroughs show that a trickle of innovation can lead to a flood of imitators trying to catch up. Customers are waiting for the next innovation that will satisfy their needs and create a new cohort of satisfied (and hopefully loyal) customers. 

The question for your brand is: will you lead or will you follow? 

Title image Alexander Klink via a CC BY 4.0 license