Cast your mind back to 1995, and Amazon was a simple online store with a simple mission: more books at cheaper prices than you could find easily on the limited shelf space of your high street Waterstones. Fast forward 23 years and that mission has grown somewhat. Yes, you can still order those obscure books, but if you’ve got a hankering for a lifesize cardboard cutout of Ed Miliband to go with them for some reason then sure, knock yourself out. If that’s not convenient enough, you can even buy a dedicated button which will post you Play-Doh on demand when pushed. What a time to be alive.
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So it’s reassuring to know that despite seeming to sell everything under the sun, Amazon still has the power to surprise. It’s now branched out into the world of vehicle test drives, saving you the hassle of walking up to the car dealership like a sucker. In a collaboration with Volvo, Amazon is letting its Prime customers book Volvo V40 test drives delivered straight to their door, seeming more like a £20 Blu Ray than a £20,000 hatchback.
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Of course the delivery won’t be handled by your usual delivery person, but by a dedicated “fully-trained operative” who will be on hand to accompany you on your test drive and answer your Volvo-related questions. If you decide to buy the car, you can’t keep it at the end – how would the expert get home? – but you will be directed to your local Volvo retailer which doesn’t feel quite as convenient, but there we are.
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There are some caveats: firstly, it’s only available in certain cities, and on certain days at that. By going to the site, you’ll be able to book a 45-minute test drive in London on 9 and 10 June; Birmingham on 16 and 17 June; Manchester on 23 and 24 June; and Edinburgh on 30 June and 1 July. The company says you’ll be able to arrange delivery of the car to your home or work address, but the observant of you will have noticed that all those dates fall on weekends, making the latter a bit pointless unless you’re actually supposed to be working at the time.
The future or a gimmick?
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Okay, so it’s not a permanent thing, but could it become the norm? I suspect a lot depends on how successful this trial run is. If no test-drivers go on to become buyers, then it may seem a fairly time-intensive and expensive way not to make a sale. And in complete contrast to Amazon, which goes out of its way to close the sale from the moment you open the site to the moment you complete your order, the conversion funnel here has a gaping great hole in it: you can’t buy the car you’re in on the spot.
At the same time, it’s not implausible that raising awareness of Volvo might be enough: sure, not every customer will be in a buying frame of mind when they book a test-drive to pass the time on a slow Sunday, but maybe they’ll enjoy the experience enough that a V40 may be on their shopping list when they are.
Such things are, of course, near-impossible to track. But if Amazon finds its limited number of slots snapped up in a record time, then it wouldn’t be surprising to see other car manufacturers follow suit. After all, the idea of online clothes shopping once seemed ridiculous too.
Book a Volvo test drive with Amazon