Amazon's Treasure Truck banking on retail consumer whimsy
Photo courtesy of Amazon
There are two things you'll learn about me if you follow me on Twitter.
First, I'm not exactly shy in expressing my opinion or sharing something I find interesting.
Second, I have loved Amazon since it debuted in July, 1995 and have been a fervent fan ever since.
So, when I read about one of its many latest ventures, the Treasure Truck, I was intrigued.
For the uninitiated Treasure Truck is "a truck…with treasure."
Yes, that is exactly how Amazon describes it. And that "treasure" can be anything from a high-priceed steak to sporting merchandise, essentially "one amazing item you won't want to miss."
So, is Treasure Truck a rehash of the food truck strategy? No, as it doesn't just sit in one place all day.
Is it a mashup of those white box trucks where 'items' fall out for extraordinary low prices? No, this is legit supply chain merchandise.
Is it a snazzier version of a meat seller's approach way back in the day — in that scenario a wholesale meat company sent drivers into neighborhoods, knocking on doors, hawking everything from steaks to bratwurst. Kinda, sorta, but with a twist.
Actually, Treasure Truck is a bit of all those things (but not the illegal white box truck) and yet completely new in its own way.
While the New York Times describes Treasure Truck as another of Amazon’s "puzzling retail experiments," I view it as Amazon's continuing effort to refresh retail by trying innovative approaches.
Amazon believes Treasure Truck, which is only traveling around Seattle at this point, brings back the fun of the neighborhood ice cream truck experience: Treasure Truck is a new way for Amazon customers in Seattle to order and pick up highly desirable, limited-quantity products, food, and more. Treasure Truck features one can't-miss item whenever the Truck is on the road.
But to me, in a nutshell, it's simply whimsical and banking big on a consumer's love of the whimsy.
The idea of sending a truck, featuring just a few items, into a neighborhood or commercial area, is banking on consumer curiosity. And while Amazon alerts potential 'truck' consumers about the day's special via an app, I'm not sure that's enough to make it a viable retail strategy or winning customer experience.
If Treasure Truck appeared in my tiny burg and was hawking a product of interest to me, would I make the time to purchase it?
Not very likely even though I telecommute and can run out on a moment's notice (unless I happen to be on a call or on tight deadline).
Would I be inclined to make time if working at an office – maybe as a social networking co-worker event: Hey, Treasure Truck is here guys, let’s go and see what's for sale!
No, that's not me and actually it’s never been me as a consumer.
It's the same reason why I never became a fan of retail commerce sites' 'deal of the day,' or 'weekly specials.' I don't have time or the inclination to jump on a site each day just to see what's selling at a cheap price.
Basically, if I need something, I go online and search and order and it's done and over.
I'm just as much of a bargain hunter as anyone, but I also realize that 99 percent of retail merchandise I buy I don't need as much as I think I need.
The other big factor is: If I'm at work and the 'truck' rolls by with a super porterhouse steak price, where am I going to put that steak for the next six hours of work if I don't have a refrigerator or cooler? How am I going to tie that new surf board I impulse bought for my son onto my small eco-car I use for work and what will I tie it with?
The Amazon app does enable you to buy and then schedule pick up at the Truck at a chosen location. But again, it's Monday and I'm at work and now need the family van. Yes, I can easily grab and go with the special candle on sale, but the inflatable paddleboard set poses some logistical issues.
This isn't to say I don't love Treasure Truck. I do, just like I love all of Amazon's retail forays and its passion to mix things up and make things better for the consumer.
But there's no denying the potential for consumer disappointment: Products, as Amazon admits, are limited and available for one day only so likely many consumers will hit the app to buy and be told no go. If you 'buy' but then can’t get to the truck for pickup you can only cancel the order – there's no opportunity to have it sent or delivered.
Treasure Truck is a niche experiment, and a mashup to be sure, but it doesn't bode well for a wondrous retail customer experience at this point.
But then again, it's Amazon, so that could change and change quick.
Judy Mottl / Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.