Has Amazon created another high-draw shopping model with its Treasure Trucks?

Discussion
Photo: Amazon
Jul 31, 2017
Laura Davis-Taylor

This past Saturday, 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.

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?

Introducing Treasure Truck – Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/treasuretruck

Amazon is expanding its quirky Treasure Truck, bringing roving deals to these 5 cities – GeekWire

https://www.geekwire.com/2017/amazon-expanding-quirky-treasure-truck-bringing-roving-deals-5-cities/

Amazon deal trucks may be your last chance at an NES Classic – Engadget

https://www.engadget.com/2017/07/29/amazon-treasure-trucks-nes-classic-sale/

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?

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?

Braintrust
"As Amazon expands in the brick-and-mortar world they will have to take a breath and focus on what has been profitable and not just a gimmick."
"...scarcity of both the truck and the items available on the truck seem to be an important part of making this last..."
"I like the idea of trucks with treasures but creating inconvenience for shoppers is not a great idea. "

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20 Comments on "Has Amazon created another high-draw shopping model with its Treasure Trucks?"

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Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

The Treasure Truck is a nice gimmick that will further cement loyalty to Amazon, but its overall sales won’t move the profit needle for the company. Flash sales aren’t new. And with Amazon, consumers have to make their way to the Treasure Truck, creating inconvenience in traffic-heavy towns like Los Angeles. Most still prefer free delivery. Brick-and-mortar retailers can still have successful flash sales and probably sell a lot more merchandise than Amazon’s Treasure Truck.

Kiri Masters
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.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust

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.

Though Amazon is very creative on how to drive product, they are not as strong on sustaining a profit. Their recent last quarter showed a 77 percent decline in profits. As Amazon expands in the brick-and-mortar world with their book stores and assuming Whole Foods goes through, they will have to take a breath and focus on what has been profitable and not just a gimmick or, eventually, they will face financial difficulties.

Anne Howe
BrainTrust

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.

Tony Orlando
BrainTrust

Amazon can pretty much do no wrong in the eyes of their hardcore shoppers. This is another gimmick to stir up free marketing, as once again they made the RetailWire headlines. I wouldn’t drive to get it, and many others won’t either, especially in these horrible crowded streets of the big cities, so it is a limited niche. Again, Amazon knows that the media will follow all their crazy ideas and write stories about them, so they actually can not lose on this idea and the many others that will follow.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

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.

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust

I agree Camille, primarily b/c of what I witnessed this weekend. My friend’s husband would rather be shot than walk into a store and he literally spent his entire day chasing this purchase opportunity. There’s real science behind the brain and gaming, especially when the prize is super, super attractive. I doubt we’ll see them do this for items that aren’t seriously enticing. *I signed up for it just in case, why miss out? 😉

Nikki Baird
BrainTrust
This doesn’t strike me as a highly scalable model — scarcity of both the truck and the items available on the truck seem to be an important part of making this last. I do like the part treasure hunt, part food truck (hunting down or keeping on the lookout for your favorite food trucks), part steal of the century concept. There are a lot of elements going for the concept. But it works in part because it’s Amazon, so awareness of the truck is high (thanks in part to a large amount of media coverage). The deals they opened with are the kind that would get people chasing a truck ($60 NES Classic?!) and Amazon can frankly afford for this to bomb from a profitability standpoint and still “win” — through delighting customers, showing a bit more personality and fun than they usually do and bolstering their reputation for delivering amazing deals. Could a start-up pull this off? I highly doubt it. Could Macy’s or Best Buy copy it? Yeah, I guess. Problem is, they didn’t think of it first. And actually, that’s the real challenge here — that other retailers who have been in the business longer didn’t come… Read more »
Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

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?

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

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.

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust

Indeed Ryan…I think it’s all about trying to teach us dogs yet one more new trick. Will they pull this out often? Probably not. Will they use their mammoth purchasing power and weight to get us to buy new categories from them on the cheap? And make us work for the bargain? For sure. I say this because they said that the truck might include steaks…who would imagine doing that but if they hit the streets with grass fed local steaks at 1/2 the cost of the local grocers, I have a feeling people will run for them. Can’t wait to watch and see!

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

I like this. Is this a way to move inventory fast? Is it a way to connect Amazon on a more personal level? Is this a way to have weekly or monthly sales where people get excited to see what deals are available? (Think Tuesday mornings when crowds showed up to see what was offered that week.) This is an interesting concept that creates another channel to get Amazon closer to the customer.

Frank Poole
Guest
2 months 18 days ago

Hucksterism like this, while ostensibly harmless, undermines the notion of Amazon as a purveyor of predictable and gimmick-free in-home shopping. It hurts the brand … unless, of course, they’re looking to align themselves more along the lines of QVC than with Apple.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

The greatest PR machine in the world rests just past these two huge biospheres in the north part of downtown Seattle: Amazon’s new HQ building. Idea after idea, press release after press release, none of which talk about traditional issues like profit or revenue. What the machine talks about is drones, trucks, blimps, AI, pick up centers, packages in trunks of cars … in other words: innovation. And the money flows in. A thousand bucks a share.

Attention corporations: get a clue; this is the new model. Talk to investors about how you’re changing the world by trying radical new things. Have the guts to bring in the new and forget the past. Don’t worry so much about results, just keep investing. Can you do that? Are they on board?

It’s not about the trucks, it’s about a new measurement for value.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

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.

Jett McCandless
BrainTrust

It’s hard to say how sustainable the Treasure Truck idea is, but I don’t know if they’re planning on it being sustainable in the first place. This is likely just the beginning of a larger strategy to roll out unique methods of selling and get people excited to make purchases within the Amazon ecosystem.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
This is the ultimate expression of the treasure hunt previously “owned” by off-price apparel brands like TJMaxx — only they just aren’t innovative any more. Once again we see how Amazon shows us what innovation looks like and creates enough buzz from a non-scalable, most likely non-profitable, retail experiment. Did it work? Depends on how you measure — if the measurement is in added brand loyalty by existing customers and the amount of inevitable press coverage generated, then yes, it’s a resounding success. If it’s profit and revenue — probably not so much, but somehow I doubt this is moving the needle on their stock price. Let’s total the various value points Amazon scored: 1) Increased loyalty from existing shoppers. Especially those that scored the coveted NES classic edition console 2) brand cache by selling “cool” sought after items, again, like the NES console 3) tested the waters for a unique retail experience they can use in the future to increase both #1 and #2 city by city. 4) media buzz – we’re all talking about it aren’t we? 5) distraction – they did end the week with the financial community talking about their poor earnings report, right? What’s everyone… Read more »
Anurag Rohatgi
Guest
2 months 18 days ago

I see this as a marketing effort to create a human connection with their brand in the “physical” world. It surely created buzz on social media. Who knows, one day we may see an Amazon truck next to an ice cream truck at a beach selling sunscreen and portable cellphone chargers.

Alex Senn
BrainTrust

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.

kevin tynan
Guest
2 months 12 days ago

Amazon knows how to create buzz and Treasure Trucks do that and lots more — they appeal to younger customers and increase app downloads. No, it’s not efficient nor will it make a blip on the sales chart, but it’s fun, hip and customers probably love it.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"As Amazon expands in the brick-and-mortar world they will have to take a breath and focus on what has been profitable and not just a gimmick."
"...scarcity of both the truck and the items available on the truck seem to be an important part of making this last..."
"I like the idea of trucks with treasures but creating inconvenience for shoppers is not a great idea. "

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