Around noon on Thursday, a garish, neon-light adorned delivery truck was parked outside of a Whole Foods store in New York. It looked like it might belong at a circus or on the grounds of a country fair, except that instead of peddling fortunes or cotton candy, it was selling Anova Sous Vide Bluetooth-connected Precision Cookers for $124.99, a 37% discount.
The only one way to get that cooker at that price was to buy through the Amazon app before picking it up from the truck on the same day, before the limited stock sold out.
The roving "Treasure Truck" is the latest sign that Amazon and other pure-play online retailers probably can't maximize their growth without some sort of physical presence.
Originally rolled out in Amazon’s Seattle hometown in February 2016, Amazon got a patent for the truck's “ornamental design” in January, and it's been fast expanding since. The concept rolled out to cities from Atlanta and Chicago and more recently to New York and San Francisco for a total of 25 US cities, with trucks designed for each city featuring different local touches.
Consumers sign up for texts to be notified of one sharply discounted deal that day in their city--anything from Ahi Tuna and wild Alaska salmon to Nintendo Super NES game consoles and Vitamix juicers--and buy in their Amazon app before picking up at the roving truck at the time and location they select.
Selling one item at a time won’t make a dent in Amazon’s sales, but it may do a few tricks for the Seattle giant.
For one, having shoppers pick up at the truck achieves the goal of the same-day delivery without the heavy last-mile cost of shipping.
The limited-stock and limited-time treasure hunt tactic also ups the fun quotient for Amazon, which has made a name for itself on price, service, selection and fast shipping, but not for diversion. (Online rival eBay, in its “Fill Your Cart with Color” marketing campaign this year, tweaked Amazon a bit when it asked, “When did shopping become so beige?”)