17 April 2014
CNBC was gaga for Amazon's newest electronic device, a 7 inch long wand dubbed Dash. Presumably, the name refers to the sheer speed it offers customers as they use the wand to "say it or scan it" as they buy, notes Amazon. The gadget then sends the items' bar codes or descriptions directly to shoppers' AmazonFresh online shopping baskets.

The Harry Potter-worthy device, for now available only by invitation to customers in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, is included in the $299 annual cost of Prime Fresh membership, which is incurred after a 30-day trial.

Using an Amazon Dash offers one of those rare moments where function and fun coalesce. But will this experience encourage more consumers to start buying food online?

Despite the familiar complaints of not being able to select your produce, online grocery shopping is rising—and quickly at that. Kantar Retail estimates the number of shoppers will increase 26 percent a year until 2020, when the firm predicts 5 percent of the grocery market will be online. And Brick Meets Click estimates that within the next 10 years, and depending on market conditions, online sales could penetrate 6.7-16.9 percent of the market.

Plus Dash has a lot of potential. Designed to withstand the rough-and-tumble realities of family life, it may be a boon to many time-challenged consumers. Parents who may not have or want their phones on-hand all the time will appreciate its durability and ease of use. Other busy shoppers, especially techies, will like the hours the Wi-Fi-enabled gadget saves them at both ends as it streamlines the ordering process and saves them from having to go to the grocery store.

It also plays to online shoppers’ predilection for convenience, variety and, in some cases, lower prices. They also like avoiding crowds and shopping-related expenses, like gasoline, according to Upstream Commerce, a retail consultancy. And as greater numbers of online food retailers can enhance these benefits and make the process easier and more efficient, more and more consumers will likely choose to shop for groceries online. Dash has the propensity to speed the process up still further and add an element of fun to it—making it a win-win option if the tool performs as anticipated.

But most significantly, what does this mean for food and beverage companies?
 
  • Seek out and use packaging that meets and supports the logistical needs of this new model.
  • Consider making products that capitalize on this opportunity uniquely and can be bought in bulk, stored in the pantry and meet consumers’ demands for high quality, good tasting foods and beverages.
  • Ensure packaging is designed to support easy bar code scanning and clear labeling. Shoppers looking for more information will gravitate toward brands and companies that operate with transparency, including through labeling.
See the CNBC Squawk on the Street video where the team discusses Amazon Dash and what it means. See our previous stories on how the online grocery market’s growth will impact retailers and food and beverage manufacturers alike.

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