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The Lucky Digital-Age Homemakers

DIGITAL VENTURES X JITSUPA CHIN May 29, 2017 2:06 PM

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I recently welcomed a new gadget to my home, a beautiful assistant (I am not so sure whether she's pretty or not, but her voice sounded gorgeous). Her name is Alexa. She comes in a form of a small, round gadget with the trade name, Echo Dot.

Simply speaking, Echo Dot is a speaker that connects to smartphones. However, it is not the usual speaker because Alexa is the name of the AI inside. Aside from being a speaker, we can have a conversation, ask for information, and ask the gadget to help out around the house. All of this works via an application on your smartphone.

Since Echo Dot has not yet been designed to be used outside of the United States, therefore, there are limitations when using it in Thailand. Nevertheless, I had the opportunity to interaction with it like saying hi, asking the weather, the traffic report, my schedules, playing games via my voice, searching Wikipedia and much more.

When I come back home after a long day and say “Alexa, I'm home” and she replies, “I'm glad you're back”. Frankly, it feels heartwarming, hahaha.

There are 3 tasks which I need Alexa’s help but, unfortunately, she still can't. 1) I want to use my voice to turn on music, but I can’t because I do not have an Amazon Music. 2) I want her to help operate my smart home appliances, but I can’t because I have not installed them yet. 3) I want Alexa to help purchase items from Amazon, but I can't because I do not have an Amazon Prime.

Today, I want to talk about these 3 topics. How convenient would it be if I’m about to do the laundry and noticed that the detergent is almost out and I just tell Alexa to order some. Then, in a few days, the detergent is delivered at my front door without me having to interact with a computer monitor or a telephone.

At present, ordering groceries delivered to the home has become very convenient that we don’t even need cash on hand. In Thailand, there are two services that can help you with your usual supermarket shopping routine.

  • Order directly from the service provider.

You can directly order from the brand itself, choosing from their website or application, put in the basket, select the delivery time, and just wait for the delivery at your home. As for the payment, it has been customized to fit the Thai customers with a cash payment option. You can pay by cash when the item arrives or choose the credit or debit card option. The current players in Thailand are Tesco Lotus and Big C.

  • Use a distributor to purchase and deliver.

This is where you skip the brand and ask a middleman to choose, purchase, and deliver your items. There are several brands in this market. I have tried Honest Bee and Happy Fresh, startups from our neighbors, Singapore and Indonesia respectively. Both brands say that they are better than the first option, in that, that have trained experts who select the items for the customers. It is not a First In First Out concept, but instead, they are sending a person to select the finest item such as the best, freshest fruits and meat. Also, the orders are more flexible, if an item is out-of-stock, they will give you a call and ask if you’d want a replacement. Then, they will deliver them right to your doorstep. Moreover, if the overall sum reaches a certain amount, the delivery is free (I have always wondered how they make a profit because the items have the same price tag as sold in the supermarket. They cannot add too much margin because these are commodities and customers are highly price sensitive and choose only the cheapest item. I later learned that they make a little profit here and there while hoping for more frequent larger orders.)

  

Another main player in the market is Line Man. You can buy all sorts of items with them and supermarket shopping is part of their service.

Back to Amazon, I talked about Echo because I want to point out that when we enter a website or application to choose an item to be delivered, it may seem like the most convenient way. When in fact, today, there is an even faster way that requires fewer procedures. The company who forefront this online delivery innovation is Amazon.

As mentioned, aside from using your voice to ask Alexa to order items, Amazon also launched the Dash Button. A small button that can be placed around the house. When you run out of something, just press the button and it will be delivered to your home. No mobile phones, no applications, no baskets, no check outs, just a single button.

Dash is a small button of different brands, one button for one brand. A button for Tide detergent will only be used to order Tide detergent. This IoT can easily process the orders into the system, thus, users may place this button near the washing machine, set the settings once so it knows what a push means. Afterward, when the detergent is running out, just a button push and your detergent will arrive in 2 days.

Despite the speed, the Dash has its disadvantages because one button can only order one item. If you want choices, wouldn’t you need to stock a lot of buttons? Nevertheless, it is still very convenient. Doing what it does, I'll probably place them all around my home.

You think a button push is fast, there is an even faster option!

Amazon is not the only guy who is using innovation to easily and quickly get cash out of our pockets. Walmart, has recently patented an equipment similar to Dash. It is not a copy, Walmart did some changes here and there and launched a new system. Walmart’s system uses Bluetooth, RFID, infrared, NFC, and other technologies to gather consumer usage behavior. The user only has to set a limit once and when your item has reached the level, it will automatically order the item for you without having to even press a button.

This much convenience may seem a bit scary as these giant brands will know your every behavior and patterns. A recent news report has even mentioned that these algorithms can inform retailers that we are pregnant even before we know it.

Well, that's the digital age, buying items at the supermarkets may not mean taking the bus or car to the supermarket or visiting the store. Payment is not only limited to cash or credit cards at the counter but involves adding an online shopping account to your credit or debit card or mobile payment. You wouldn’t need to bring your wallet any longer. In the future, we don't even need to check our household supplies because, with one setting, they will constantly be delivered.

It has gotten really convenient! 

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