Will Amazon Over-Stretch Its Supply Chain with ‘Dash Replenishment’?

Back in March last year, when Amazon announced its ‘Dash’ button service, many people thought it was an early April Fool’s joke. As it turned out, the online giant was completely serious.


The first Dash devices went live this week and, although currently there are only a small number of products available with Dash Replenishment, it’s clear that Amazon has plans to expand its range and deliver another service that promises to disrupt and change the way we shop for frequently used goods.

Dash Button Partners

For those of you who don’t know, the Amazon Dash Button is a wifi-enabled electronic device, aimed at making re-ordering commonly used consumables and household goods easier. Each Dash Button is unique to a specific product, and when the button is pushed, an order is placed for that product through the user’s Amazon shopping app.

The Dash Buttons exist in two formats. First, the Buttons are built into electronic equipment (think printers, washing machines, etc.) and are used to reorder consumables specifically for that equipment. The second format are buttons, sold individually, for specific products (washing powder, toilet roll) that users can leave in convenient places around the house to assist with their shopping.

To begin with the Buttons will only be available on request to Amazon customers who are already registered for Amazon Prime. Once requested, customers will then link the Buttons to their existing accounts.

To date, Amazon has announced Dash deals with a number of electronics manufacturers, including Samsung, Whirlpool and Brother, as well as with large FMCG organisations like P&G, for products like Tide and Bounty.

Supply Chain Pressure

It is a testament to Amazon’s willingness to push the boundaries of their business model that they would even try this sort of service. Not known as a site where household items are commonly purchased, Amazon are looking to leverage their experience in current activities and try to change our shopping habits. Again.

However, some experts have warned that Amazon might be putting too much pressure on their service management systems and supply chain by introducing another service that is built around fast delivery and high levels of customer service.

With an increasing number of customers using Amazon’s Prime next-day delivery service, the launch of Amazon Prime Now one-hour delivery in some cities around the world, not to mention the roll-out of Prime Now Restaurant delivery in some American cities, it’s not difficult to see where issues may arise.

Neil Penny, product director at Sunrise Software, comments: “Amazon’s Dash Replenishment is the retail giant’s foray into instant gratification and user convenience, with the model using connected devices to potentially provide limitless access to products while also removing any effort from the user themselves.

“However, the more seamless and predictive a service appears, the more work must go on in the background to meet these mounting expectations. While the idea is great on paper, it is questionable how realistic it will be for most firms with their current fulfilment strategies.”

Customer Expectations

As with anything else that Amazon does, customer expectations will be high. The retailer will have to work hard to ensure that the expectations are met for both product availability and delivery times.

In order to make sure that this venture succeeds, Amazon will have to work closely with its own service providers and supply chain to ensure that the products currently available under Dash Replenishment are available when required, and that the service providers can meet deadlines for stock delivery, delivery capacity and order prioritisation.

And should the current model succeed, it may see Amazon expand the products available, both for the inbuilt and individual buttons, as well as having other companies follow suit with their own products.

Penny states, “While Amazon’s new service is launching with products like print and washing supplies, the automatic model is likely to see widespread adoption across other companies and industries in the next few years.  With IoT-enabled devices becoming increasingly more commonplace, more firms will come under pressure to adopt similar approaches.

“Being able to keep track of the complex web of suppliers and service level agreements and respond to demands quickly will be an absolute requirement for any service provider hoping to keep up with demand.”