Peroni 2016

The wait is over for beer buffs. From now on, thirsty connoisseurs can order their fix literally at the press of a button with the launch of a new ‘Press for Peroni’ device. Sadly, the fridge fixture won’t magically dispense beer on command. But, for the 100 Ocado customers who participate in the trial of the brand’s device, one press will add a crate of beer automatically to their online basket.

If the idea sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Just two months ago, Amazon launched its Dash button in the UK – essentially the same thing but with 48 brands and automatic next-day delivery. By comparison, Ocado’s offer of just one brand and delivery with your next regular shop (which still requires users to log on to the site) is hardly ground-breaking.

What is noteworthy, though, is that Ocado seems to be treading carefully into the internet of things arena. Although Ocado is at pains to mention that it did not develop the technology – Peroni was the driving force – its willingness to partner with the brand shows it does see a place for these devices.

And this first internet of things venture could herald the start of far more exciting developments to come. While ‘Push for Peroni’ may simply look like a watered-down version of Amazon Dash, Ocado is adamant it won’t simply follow Amazon’s lead in this area. At a press briefing last month, Ocado’s chief technology officer, Paul Clarke, cryptically talked about his in-house team looking at “exciting” developments. Not much was revealed on their nature – there was a hint it might involve voice recognition technology – but Clarke promised it went “beyond what we see people doing at the moment”.

The overriding message was that Ocado is taking its time to do things right, rather than rushing to compete with Amazon in the internet of things. The danger, of course, is that could lose ground while Amazon ramps up its efforts with devices such as the Dash button and Dash wand, which enables customers to order products by scanning barcodes or speaking into the microphone. But how many customers will really defect to Amazon because they can’t order their Ocado products by pressing a button? In a Big Interview with The Grocer last month, Ocado’s director of marketing and grocery Lawrence Hene doubted it was a likely scenario. “In technology, there’s normally room for more than one player and being earliest isn’t necessarily who wins in the long term,” he argued.

So while the ‘Push the Peroni’ button may look like copycat technology at best – a gimmick at worst – it is sure to be the sign of more sophisticated things to come. Watch this space.