Can Walmart dash past Amazon with its own product replenishment system?
Moving a step beyond Amazon.com’s Dash button, Walmart is seeking to patent a delivery system that automatically reorders items when they run out.
Walmart’s system would place an internet-connected tag that makes use of RFID, Bluetooth, NFC or some other technology on products to monitor usage. Once an item is close to empty or worn out, a replenishment, replacement or upgrade would be automatically ordered.
“For example,” the patent states, “a user may pick up a toothbrush and place it back down, suggesting the use of the toothbrush, and from the servings of a tube of toothpaste, the system can deduce how much toothpaste is left and when it should be refilled. In another example, the system can monitor clothes entering a washing machine, and from this information the predicted durability of replacement needed on each article of clothing may be determined.”
Consumers would place readers in their homes to track the tags, such as one in a refrigerator for reading tags on food items or one on a washer or closet for reading tags on clothes.
Beyond auto-replenishment, the systems would gather usage data such as how frequently a product is used, what time of day it is used, and where it is located in the house. The data could be used to assist with personalized advertising, predictive demand management, and customer profiling for market segmentation needs, the patent states.
The data access might also provide cross-selling opportunities. In another example, Walmart notes that timely suggestions for cookies and chocolate syrup could be triggered by milk usage information.
The system appears to be an upgrade to Amazon’s Dash, which lets consumers press a button to replenish an order of a specific item. Launched two years ago, Dash has now partnered with well over 300 brands, including last week’s addition of Calvin Klein underwear.
- Retail subscription in Internet of Things environment – United States Patent and Trademark Office
- Walmart’s IoT Patent Application Takes Aim At Amazon Dash – CB Insights
- Walmart eyes a future Dash replacement that could reorder for you – Engadget
- There’s now an Amazon Dash button for underwear – TechCrunch
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see a big opportunity in merging IoT and home replenishment? Which aspects of Walmart’s patent do you think consumers will find appealing and/or concerning?