business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

It was just another email. Until I thought about it for a minute, and considered the implications.

The email was from Amazon (as so many are in any given day), and it was promoting a new item available on the site - a Brita water pitcher that comes with a filter than enables the consumer to have cleaner, better-tasting water.

Except that this was a pitcher with a curveball - because this Brita pitcher comes complete "equipped with a built-in counter that tracks the amount of water that passes through the pitcher's filter. The pitcher itself will automatically order a new filter through Amazon Dash Replenishment when the old filter nears its capacity. This new connected pitcher with Amazon Dash Replenishment gives Brita owners exactly what they want - a new Brita filter on their doorstep at the time they need it."

Wow. That's pretty cool.

The Brita Infinity Pitcher will cost about 45 bucks, which seems to be about a third more expensive than most of the Brita pitchers that I found on Amazon ... but the argument is that the tech-driven convenience will make the price difference palatable. And I have to say that I think the argument is pretty compelling. Or, to coin a phrase, it is an argument that holds water.

At another time, I might've thought that this was an unnecessary innovation. But just a few minutes before, I was looking for a replacement water filter for my Cuisinart coffeemaker, and didn't have one, and realized that I had a choice between ordering replacements from Amazon and finding a local store that carries them. I decided to go the Amazon route, but when I got the email, I thought about how great it would be if my coffeemaker knew that it was time for a new water filter, and ordered one automatically.

That'd be pretty cool.

One of the things that traditional retailers have to realize is that the advent of smart appliances and the expanding Amazon ecosystem are combining to create an environment in which it is less and less necessary for people to actually go to the store. Not everybody, and not all the time. But enough to have an impact on a lot of bottom lines.

One of the things that one finds a lot at industry conferences is people who like to cast doubt on the e-revolution. They like to talk about the people who still want to go to the store, about the hiccups that can affect click-and-collect or delivery services, about how rural customers have different needs than urban customers, and about how selling points like "your neighborhood grocer" or "hometown proud" or "old-fashioned service" or similar tropes are enough for retailers to hang their hats on when competing in this new environment.

All of this may, in fact, be true. And still not enough to stave off the impact of technologies like the Brita pitcher, or other, similar smart appliances that can fundamentally change the way people shop.

Not all people, and not all the time. But enough to create leaks in the traditional market shares of a lot of retailers and manufacturers. Leaks that are likely to grow bigger with time.

It was just another email. Until I thought about it for a minute, and considered the implications.

It was an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: