What is the Amazon Treasure Truck, and does it stack up as a crossover online-to-offline retail experience?
At 9:30am this morning, I received an SMS that triggered an exciting eCommerce-adventure-slash-experiential-retail-investigation.
You’d be forgiven for not having heard of Amazon’s Treasure Truck, launched in the UK with relatively little fanfare and light PR mid-December 2017 after 2 years of operation in the USA. Have a look at #treasuretruck and you’ll see a moderate, but not huge, volume of tweets and selfies with the ‘gram-friendly funfair truck.
So what is it? Amazon Prime members sign-up for notifications near a given postcode, and then receive SMS notifications of offers when the pop-up truck is going to be near that location – for one hour only. The offers vary in their must-buy-this-now factor, but luckily, in this case, I was already in the consideration phase of the funnel for a Fitbit Ionic, and the free headphones deal (and chance to blog about the truck!) was too good to miss!
In this case, I signed up a couple of weeks ago, and the Truck was going to be near Baker Street tube between 10am and 11am, or much further afield at two other London locations later on Friday. I duly checked out within 5mins of receiving the text and set-off within 10mins. Everything about the checkout process was as per the normal Amazon Prime experience, other than the prompt to head off to the location before 11am, links to mapping and directions and a QR code emailed to me.
After 25 minutes on the Google Maps treasure trail, I arrived and was presented with a scruffy grey car park, unexceptional other than for the illuminated truck parked up in its midst with dance music belting out at a decent volume.
On approach, the truck itself is a cheerful and exciting thing (I subsequently learned this particular truck is called ‘Tallulah’ by her crew.) As well as the funfair lights, suitably ‘cardio’ dance music was blasting out and a Fitbit Promo video running on the central screen.
I was warmly greeted by Simon and the rest of the Treasure Truck team, plus David from Fitbit who was there to offer advice on the product. As I was the only customer they’d had 10mins into their hour at the location, they had plenty of time to chat, answer my questions and pose for photos.
I learned that this team covers the area inside the M25, running the experience a few days a week; they are a dedicated Treasure Truck team rather than being pulled from duties elsewhere at Amazon.
In my whole 20mins at the truck, I saw only one other customer, who arrived and left within seconds before I could grill him for his thoughts. “It varies a lot depending on the offer that day and the location,” Simon tells me. “We had a Taittinger champagne offer recently and we were mobbed with people after £27 bottles [60% off] and wanting to take selfies.”
“Do you get mainly people coming from work or from home?” I ask. “Again, it depends on the location, but in Central London, it tends to be office workers” says Simon. He agrees that buyers tend to be from a segment who are looking for a novel, made-for-social experience rather than pure convenience.
At one end of the Truck is a hatch with pre-packed bags with the treasure. The team simply scanned the QR code I’d received on my email receipt and handed me a bag. If I hadn’t stopped to chat the complete experience would have been under 30secs.
Also to one side was a hastily assembled trestle table of free Fitbit merch for me to take, and I bagged a water bottle, towel, coloured pencils, stickers and Oyster card holder (purely for research purposes of course!). I also spoke briefly with David from Fitbit, who was there to offer advice on setting up my new Ionic, or to pitch anyone who just happened to see the truck and walk-up.
The deal is hard to miss and available to those who walk up and order on the spot, which today seemed to be nobody, at least at this location. As well as the hashtag, I did ask if there was a Treasure Truck Snapchat filter, but the crew told me they’d had to drop that idea as Snap couldn’t accommodate the fluid location requirements.
So here I am, treasure in hand, internally reconciling the loveliness and novelty of the purchase experience while being aware I’m a grown man stood having photos taken with a funfair truck in a windswept car park.
About an hour after getting the notification, I’m back at base with my new stash.
So what do I think of Treasure Truck?
- The checkout process was as simple and slick as anything else that Amazon do, but I was a little disappointed that the piratical ‘treasure’ and carnival themes (a little bit of indecision on the creative direction there perhaps?!) didn’t carry through into any of the copy or design of the notifications, emails, product pages or checkout. It was all Amazon standard.
- The actual location of the truck was not very convenient (nor attractive) and I ultimately had to leave my desk for an hour at short notice for a free pair of decent headphones, when I could have got the watch delivered free of charge through Prime.
- What it absolutely did achieve was triggering a purchase decision where I had already been close to buying, but needing that final push.
- I enjoyed the theatre of the truck itself and the staff was as friendly, helpful and enthusiastic as you would hope. The extra Fitbit freebies and support were also nice touches.
- Did Amazon target me because I’d been considering an Ionic in December? Were the offer and location today created by an algorithm based in part on my individual purchase intent? Did they know I was near the location when I got the text? Understandably the team on site was not able to answer on specifics, nor tell me how locations and timing are decided other than ‘by data.’ However, they did tell me that I was likely to be notified of any and all offers ‘inside the M25’, implying that there isn’t a lot of targeting going on in the background.
- I felt the mechanics of ‘we will be in your area for 1hr’ added a bit of urgency and excitement to the experience, but ultimately were inconvenient and limit how this concept can scale. Rather than the logistics of setting up a truck for one hour 3 times in a day, I’d prefer to see the truck parked at a (more aesthetically pleasing) single location for a whole day. This would allow social and word-of-mouth to build a bit more buzz and FOMO around the truck with enough of a time window for new customers to get involved, probably making a trip from their offices at lunchtime or after work. Also, the logistics would allow a lot more props and theming to get those pirate-y Instagrams (or is it funfair-y tweets?) flowing.
- The relatively low awareness and need to pre-register are also stopping Treasure Truck reaching its intended zeitgeist quotient I feel; this would work better as a buzzy talked-about experience rather than a well-kept secret.
This is an interesting move from Amazon, a brand that is ‘operational excellence’ and ‘slick customer experience’ to the core but rarely indulges in fun or socially-engaging activity. And this was definitely a fun experience, albeit one that I wouldn’t repeat unless it was an offer I was desperate for or the truck was parked right outside my location.
Or for a pirate Snapchat filter…