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Last month, Amazon.com stealthily launched a flash sale in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles using its only once-before-seen Treasure Trucks.
Touted as “an ice cream truck for grown-ups,” the engagement model, which was tested in Seattle before being rolled out to new markets this weekend, is unique and intriguing. The truck drives around town with a single “amazing deal” and, when it’s going to be in your area, you get a text on your phone. If interested, you click to buy on your app, pick one of the trucks as your pickup point and get over there — fast.
By Laura Davis-Taylor
Co-Founder, High Street Experience
The launch video for the service eludes to items such as new releases and electronics, steaks and seafood, outdoor gear, toys and more. All you do is sign up and wait for the truck to arrive at a city near you.
The brilliant move we saw with this weekend’s maiden voyage was the choice of lure, which was the elusive NES Classic Edition gaming console. Game aficionados could snag the retro device, which was discontinued a few months ago, at its original $60 price for one day only. The offer was available from 11 am to 5 pm, only while stock lasted, and it was seen (and socially shared) as what may be the best and possibly last opportunity to get the Classic without succumbing to the inflated prices of third-party resellers or online auctions.
Amazon has creatively harnessed a powerful combination of tactics — exclusivity, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), gamification, relevance and value — to make Treasure Trucks as alluring as possible. In doing so, Amazon not only caused a purchase frenzy with a highly passionate interest group, it also showed us that people are quite happy to work hard to purchase something if the carrot is attractive enough.
Being in the retail innovation business, one of my favorite “truths” is that, to teach people a new behavior, the fear of remaining the same must exceed the fear of learning something new. As this new model becomes a norm, what does it mean for other retailers?
Discussion Questions: Has Amazon created yet another coveted shopping model with the Treasure Truck? What could this mean for traditional retailers and their traffic generation efforts? Does the Treasure Truck model debunk the theory that shoppers prefer in-home delivery?
Comments from the RetailWire BrainTrust:
By virtue of its desire to offer the best product selection of any online or offline retailer, Amazon is not strong when it comes to impulse purchasing and product curation. The Treasure Truck provides a unique opportunity to inspire impulse purchases and push specific products. Another boon for this model is the ability for Amazon to test new product lines. Customers relish the opportunity to be first in line to try something new and Amazon accesses hungry beta users. It’s a win-win all round.
- Kiri Masters, Founder and CEO, Bobsled Marketing
No one could ever fault Amazon for being creative and continually coming up with innovative ideas. Treasure Truck is another one of those ideas. However, I see this as being a once- or a twice-a-year promotion rather than something available on a regular basis, because of cost.
Great way to provide a fun, engaging customer experience. For those who are available and have time, this will be a fun way to purchase items if they are of interest. This takes the old Kmart Blue Light Special to a new level.
- Camille P. Schuster, PhD., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.
I’ve said it before and I will, no doubt, say it again. Amazon is simply brilliant when it comes to creating buzz in the market and garnering free publicity. Think about this, not only are they promoting the Treasure Truck — which I agree probably won’t ever represent a step change in their sales outlook — but they are getting more people to download their app. I don’t know the percentage of Amazon shoppers who still only go direct to the website, but promotions like this help reduce that number and may help to convert the few Amazon-holdouts left on Earth.
To answer the questions, first I think this will mean almost nothing to other retailers over the long haul and, second, a few beta tests don’t prove or disprove anything but, that said, I’d say the answer is that customers still prefer home delivery but find it hard to resist a treasure hunt.
- Ryan Mathews, Founder, CEO, Black Monk Consulting
What’s not to like about Treasure Trucks? I can imagine them parked at county fairs and college football games, doling out limited-supply deals and closeouts to the faithful. Not that they will generate meaningful profits for a business the size of Amazon.com, but as a branding “vehicle” that pays its own way in the physical realm, it’s a creative win.
Bottom line: Colorful fun, but not very important in the grand scheme.
- James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies
I like the idea of trucks with treasures but creating inconvenience for shoppers is not a great idea. Maybe park those trucks at festivals on Saturdays, let people shop and sign up for Prime, then provide delivery on Sundays.
- Anne Howe, Principal, Anne Howe Associates
We need to figure that Amazon is playing like a magician — and every time they do something flashy we need to ask what they’re distracting us from.
Perhaps what we should see behind this is a desperate need for brick-and-mortar. Perhaps Amazon knows innovative new products sell badly online and that the economics of pure Amazon e-commerce aren’t sustainabe. In doing this they are learning about brick-and-mortar retail — but because it’s such a “quirky” idea, the press stays focused on “reinventing retail” when Amazon really is just using this to search for learning that leads to profit.
Anyway … Fun idea. But what’s the magician holding behind his back?
Doug Garnett, Founder & CEO, Atomic Direct
The treasure truck is simply a method of getting more user adoption. It’s a way to keep you on Amazon.com or its app. This is also one of the tricks of Amazon’s marketing efforts which seemingly are meant to garner headlines in as many unique ways as possible and, of course, it works. The Treasure Truck, if anything, is probably another non-profitable venture, but one that extends Amazon’s reach and appeal just because it’s something new that other retailers aren’t doing. I wouldn’t expect to see Target or Walmart rolling out treasure trucks anytime soon.
Alex Senn, Founder and CEO at Orkiv.com
Read the entire RetailWire discussion here: