The most amusing aspect of the recent hysteria surrounding a rumor that Amazon is going to start hundreds of retail stores was the fact that so many journalists and commentators talked about book stores by Amazon as if owning a book store retail chain would make any sense for Amazon. Of course it does not. Jason Del Ray has some background information on what is going on inside Amazon regarding physical stores. Brick-and-mortar stores by Amazon will be more about physical locations to ‘play’ with. They will be show rooms and distribution channels for the store owner’s devices the same like Apple Stores are. But those locations, whenever Amazon may start going beyond Seattle -and it may be a while-, will be even more.
Maybe Amazon stores will also become locations to pick-up orders from. Maybe they will be locations where Amazon’s Flex contractors will pick up packages for fast delivery (as in ‘Prime Now’). Maybe they will be locations to bring easily returns to. (In Germany German online retailers Zalando and Outfittery are starting to pick up returns at the customer’s homes. (German/Google translation))
If you can not imagine these scenarios to happen I can assure you they are been played through inside Amazon. How Amazon is approaching online retail beyond the desktop Internet is a core topic at Early Moves. Having physical locations at hand to launch different services from might make a lot of sense for a big online retailer like Amazon. (Especially in combination with Amazon Prime. And especially given the fact that an ever faster delivery needs a more decentralized logistics infrastructure anyway. Why not try using properties for multiple purposes then, if possible?)
But it is not about going back to the old store concept. Even not with “using” online sales data for product selection and other miniscule changes to it. Rather, it is about approaches that use opportunities arising through new digital means. Meaning, the ‘online’ part of ‘online retail’s is front and center and not at the edge.
The first Treasure Truck started operating in Seattle this weekend. GeekWire on how Amazon’s Treasure Trucks are working:
First, to find the Treasure Truck, you have to be in Seattle, and you have to have the Amazon app installed on your phone. You can find it in the main menu of the app to see what’s on the truck today. You can also get alerts about the current deal. Today’s alert came promptly at 11AM.
You actually buy the item on your app, which then instructs you to visit the pickup location. Today the Treasure Truck was setup in a parking lot at the south end of Amazon’s South Lake Union campus. I was lucky that I ordered the GoPro right when I saw it, as the deal sold out in the first 45 minutes of the offer.
Parking lot attendants directed me to a parking spot next to the Treasure Truck which was setup next to a couple of white tents. The tents were staffed by cheery Amazon staffers in blaze orange Helly Hansen jackets toting Fire tablets.
Those trucks are a fascinating new endeavor by Amazon (or shall we say “Amazon startup”?). They combine the flexibility of smartphones to reach people locally with good old flash sales. Using trucks increases the addressable market -in contrast to an actual store! Getting the goods you just bought in the app from a nearby truck within minutes is perfect for impulse purchases.
What could a truck fleet be used for other than flash sales? How could this be combined with nearby Amazon locations and an Amazon Flex P2P delivery service?