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Amazon hits roadblock with mobile-enabled real-world flash deals

Amazon is disappointing Seattle consumers after generating significant buzz around its newest mobile innovation and then postponing the launch, signifying the difficulties that can arise with introducing mobile to the real world.

The Treasure Truck is Amazon’s latest unique mobile idea, which brings flash deals to the real world through its application and traveling delivery trucks. The service will put Treasure Trucks in Seattle with a limited amount of one discounted item, which customers can purchase through the Amazon mobile app and pick up at one of the scheduled locations.

“Bridging mobile or digital shopping with the on-site retail experiences is no simple task,” said Shuli Lowy marketing director at Ping Mobile, New York. “From a consumer perspective it may sound simple—you just buy the product and pick it up at a location.

“From Amazon’s perspective there is a lot that needs to take place behind the scenes,” she said. “Inventory availability needs to be updated in real time across all its platforms to ensure the company is not selling more products on any platform than it has available.

“Additionally, the personnel selling the items on site need to constantly have a current headcount of the items sold digitally to make sure they are not selling items on-site that are reserved for people who purchased through the app or elsewhere. It is not an easy program to roll out.”

Customer let down 
The new mobile feature was to originally launch on June 27 but the retailer announced it is holding the release of the trucks for a later date. At this time, it is unclear why Amazon decided to delay the launch or when the trucks will finally reach Seattle streets.

As mobile becomes more integrated in consumer behavior and everyday life, more retailers are attempting to bridge the gap of the real world and mobile experiences.

The draw of mobile is that consumers are always plugged in while on the go. However, how to operate when it comes to crossing the line of integrating the mobile experience into the real-life experience, rather than keeping it two separate entities, can still be tricky.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers have been embracing omnichannel experiences such as order online and pick up in-store. Ecommerce pure plays such as Amazon have been slower to figure out how to bridge the divide between online and the real world.

Fans and consumers are interested in unique mobile experiences such as Amazon’s Treasure Trucks. But faulty practices may create a negative brand sentiment for consumers, so Amazon is smart to put the offering on hold if it is not quite ready.

“It is certainly disappointing that the launch was delayed,” Ms. Lowy said. “The delayed launch is particularly anticlimactic since Amazon invested in promoting the launch and getting consumers geared up for the Treasure Truck.

“The delay was also particularly unsettling as it came out at the last minute,” she said. “Many angry consumers are blasting Amazon on social media, clearly upset that they woke up early for nothing.

“Many also feel that the brand did not put forth a sufficient effort to thoughtfully notify people about the delay. For example, Amazon added the delay update to an old post on Facebook instead of putting out a new one which would have been more visible.”

Amazon had teased the upcoming launch of the trucks for the past week with a video on YouTube, social media discussion and a post on its Web site. Seattle consumers and others took to social channels discussing the unique take on flash sales with excitement.

The digital retailer announced via a YouTube video that the trucks would be selling discounted paddleboards for $99, now excited consumers are let down, unsure when the paddleboards will be available.

Once the Treasure Trucks do launch, Seattle customers will get push-notifications through the Amazon mobile app declaring which item is available on the trucks that day with the discounted price. If the user is interested, she clicks buy now and picks one of the scheduled pickup locations for the day.

Building mobile with bricks-and-mortar
Consumers are seeking more and more mobile integration with real-world shopping experiences. For example, mobile’s influence on bricks-and-mortar sales rose to 28 percent in 2014, up from 19 percent the prior year, but the divide is growing between the digital functionality retailers provide and the experience consumers want, with mobile particularly affected, according to a new report from Deloitte (see more).

Amazon’s Treasure Trucks is just one example of the many unique methods in which brands and retailers are leveraging mobile and the real world.

For instance, Target also took a unique approach to drive sales with a digitally interactive art exhibit called Target Too that comes complete with an accompanying application (see more).

“We can assume that something went amiss and that Amazon decided that it I s better to delay the launch then to launch it badly,” Ms Lowy said. “While the delayed launch doesn’t help Amazon win consumer trust, the brand still has a chance to redeem itself and get past this.

“Amazon would be wise to create a campaign to repair the negative sentiment pronto,” she said. “Thus far, Amazon has done little to acknowledge the hardship that the delay caused nor commit to make it up to people.

“Consumers were really excited about the program and are therefore extremely disappointed at the late role out. Their disappointment speaks to fact that they were committed to being good customers; that alone should be enough of a reason for Amazon to work on winning them back over.”

Final take
Brielle Jaekel is editorial assistant at Mobile Commerce Daily