Amazon Orders at the Touch of a Button (not an April Fool's Joke)

Prime Members Can Instantly Order Household Items Like Detergent and Baby Food

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In its quest to connect people and products faster than ever, Amazon.com Inc. is testing a new service that lets customers instantly order household items like laundry detergent and baby food -- without touching a computer or smartphone.

The new Amazon Dash Button has an adhesive strip and can be mounted to a washing machine or a kitchen cupboard, or anywhere a customer is likely to notice a certain product is running low. The detergent-deficient user pushes the button, which uses home Wi-Fi networks to alert Amazon to deliver the item, saving the customer a trip to the store -- or even a visit to the Amazon app. Consumer brands such as Tide, Clorox and Huggies are available via Dash.

Amazon, whose $99-a-year Prime membership service offers free two-day delivery on many items, is seeking to boost revenue and shore up shrinking margins by enticing these high-frequency users to rely on the company for even more of their basic shopping. The Seattle-based company is also expanding its one-hour delivery service in some cities, an effort to become competitive with the near-instant access offered by brick-and-mortar stores closer to customer's homes.

While Amazon is trying to win more grocery business, the Dash may be a misfire with customers, said Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"Do we really need this device?" she said. "I can see this being much better for, say, ordering pizza, but for ordering diapers or toilet paper seems a little odd. Who waits until the last roll of toilet paper before replenishing anyway?"

The company in 2014 posted its first annual loss in at least 12 years as it poured money into fulfillment centers, speedier package delivery, original video programming and its cloud-computing division.

The Dash button is available by invitation only to select Amazon Prime members, with a limit of three buttons per customer. Prime members number in the tens of millions. The company didn't disclose the size of the Dash button trial.

--Bloomberg News

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