With each passing day our homes and lives are more connected.

As we continue to integrate more technology into our work and play, an interesting thing is happening: more of the tasks we have traditionally tackled manually are being taken on in a passive manner by these same, connected technologies.

The idea of technology taking over some of out daily activities might seem scary to some. But to me, the possibility of saving significant amounts of time is exciting. Frankly, there are a great deal of things I do on a regular basis that I would love to have taken over by technology and performed in a passive manner on my behalf.

And I'm not alone. At a roundtable organized by Adobe  in San Francisco last November, a group of CMOs, platform execs, pundits and analysts discussed the issue. The twelve people concluded sensor-based ‘passive’ buying could make up 15 percent of all purchases in 2020.

Homeward Bound

Let's examine this phenomenon by looking at the smart home, an environment where we can see this happening right now.

Smart thermostats can control the temperatures in our homes and also learn our preferences so that we don’t have to actively make any adjustments. That saves us little bits of time. Many times these smart thermostats can also save us money by helping to better regulate the heat and cold in our homes to fit out habits and situations.

Many people have robotic vacuums that clean the floor while they are out, leaving us only to empty the contents when we get home. These friendly little robots save us a lot of time and cut down on the stress of cleaning. I have always thought it was nice to come home to find things freshly vacuumed.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled many items with connectivity. Amazon has taken some interesting steps to use this connectivity by helping brands better connect with their customers and encourage them to make passive purchases.

The Amazon Dash Button allows customers to repeat a predefined purchase to replenish commonly used items by simply pressing a button. Though the Amazon Dash Button isn’t a passive purchase it lays some important groundwork that will surely pave the way for passive purchases in the near future.

To launch the Dash buttons, Amazon partnered with brands that offer common household products like cleaning products. The partnership between the brands and an online retail platform lends considerable clout to the endeavor.

Most brands have already established loyalty with their customers to some extend as has Amazon. The unique piece that Amazon brings to the table is trust. Most customers are not used to making purchases directly through a brand and have not had to trust them with their address or credit card information.

Learning Opportunities

The Dash buttons help the customer feel comfortable with automated purchasing. Once the customer no longer feels they need to go online and click through a purchase, their behavior has been effectively changed.

Next Steps

Of course, to take this form of ordering to the next level, technology will have to evolve. Connectivity is a must. So if you think of this in the smart home context then the device would likely need to be Wi-Fi enabled to connect back to a retailer and place the order on your behalf.

Determining when a replacement is needed is another question all together. If you think of something like powder laundry detergent, it might not be cost effective to monitor each package.

But if a brand offered a reusable package that had the right monitoring technology in it and then passively ordered refills when supplies ran low, that could do the trick — and have an additional green selling point as well.

The result is one less thing you have to add to keep track of for your shopping list.

Once trust is established for the brand and retailer then the movement to passive ordering can begin. It seems an easy sell that would save the consumer time and likely be much more environmentally friendly.

I, for one, am certainly looking forward to passively ordered beard oil refills. Who is with me?

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