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By combining some of the most potent motives for purchase—including the fear of missing out, a sense of exclusivity, value promises, and gamification—Amazon seemingly has struck on a new way to get people excited about buying. The newly rolled out Treasure Trucks force people to work a little to obtain the products on offer, yet the fun of this hunt appears to be making that effort worthwhile to many buyers.

The concept is novel but also comparable to a familiar sales model: an “ice-cream truck for grown-ups.” In select cities, Amazon customers can sign up to receive alerts. At a certain point, a Treasure Truck will move through their city, and the alerts will sound. The customers then have a limited time to get to where the Treasure Truck has parked, near their own location, before it moves on to the next spot.

The offerings in each Treasure Truck are severely limited, often featuring just one or two highly desired, limited inventory products. For example, a recent offer enabled shoppers to snatch up the discontinued NES Classic Gaming console for $60. Because it has been discontinued, the retro device is somewhat difficult to obtain, but Amazon offered it at its original price, rather than marking up the cost to match the resale market. To heighten the sense of pressure even more, each Treasure Truck has only a limited supply of products, and once it sells out, there are no replenishments, so shoppers feel compelled to get there early. Other potential offers that might appear in future deliveries include steaks, toys, outdoor gear, electronics, and similarly popular product categories.

The image of an ice-cream truck thus seems pertinent, raising images of adult fans of various products chasing down a Treasure Truck with their money (or, more likely, their mobile payment–enabled device) in hand. If Amazon can make shopping seem like a fun childhood adventure, Treasure Trucks might soon be a common sight on city streets..

Discussion Question:

  1. What kind of buying behavior is manifest in the Amazon Treasure Truck?

 Source: Laura Davis-Taylor, Retail Wire, July 31, 2017