Exclusive Interview: The Strategy Behind Zappos’ Cross-Country Tour

Zappos made its name as an online-only footwear retailer, but its next steps will take the brand firmly into the physical world. The “Friends with Benefits Road Show” will finally allow Zappos’ loyal customers — and hopefully some new converts — to see, touch and feel its products. A specially outfitted 40-foot shipping container will cross the U.S. throughout 2017, giving consumers the chance to enjoy local fashion displays, celeb-curated Zappos products, pet fashion shows and adoptions, local eateries and live music.

The road show kicked off in Austin, Texas from Jan. 27-29; Nashville and Atlanta are on the schedule, with future destination announcements coming later.

In a Q&A with Retail TouchPoints, Kristin Richmer, Senior Brand Marketing Manager of Zappos, discusses how the Road Show aligns with Zappos’ commitment to creating service through experiences. Additionally, Zappos will treat each city the Road Show visits as a unique brand campaign as part of its overall goals: reactivating customers, acquiring new ones and keeping retention high.


RTP: Why did Zappos decide to do the “Friends With Benefits Road Show?”

Richmer: We consider ourselves a service company that just happens to sell shoes and clothing. When you aren’t able to physically experience something, sometimes it can be a little harder to connect with the brand. That’s one of our most important missions as a company, so it felt like a very natural extension to take our brand on the road and bring it to life through our four core tenets that we stand by on a daily basis — retail, community, charity and culture.

RTP: What are the major goals for this program?

Richmer: We’re always asking: How do we bring our brand to life in multiple ways? When it came down to what we were actually going to do, we’ve been focused on creating service through experiences. How do you showcase different service elements in a super unique Zappos-like experience? And that’s exactly what the Road Show is. We’ve outfitted a 40-foot shipping container that houses exclusive merchandise that people wouldn’t be able to physically touch on our site. We’re bringing in local bands as well as local food and beer to create a “happy hour”-type sense on a couple of the nights.

We’re also showcasing a charity element, where we partner with local adoption shelters in doing free pet adoptions on the weekends that we’re there, both on site and back at the shelter.

RTP: How do you feel the Road Show can reel in new Zappos consumers?

Richmer: We will be treating each city as its own brand campaign, so we’re doing various forms of marketing and advertising in areas that are incredibly trackable. Through our tracking initiatives, like display, social and retargeting, we’ve seen a pretty good split of everything. We’ve seen lots of customers come through that think they’ve heard of Zappos before, we had a lot of customers come through that knew who we were and haven’t shopped with us for a while, and then we had a lot of customers come through that were our most loyal and so excited that we came to their city. We’re looking at reactivating customers, new customer acquisitions and keeping our retention high. So far, this is turning out exactly how we hoped.

Involvement Across The Enterprise

RTP: How long did the Road Show’s planning process take, and how many people were involved?

Richmer: We have 10 core values at Zappos. Number eight is “Do more with less,” and that applies to many things we do including our time frames that we typically work off of. All of this really came together within a three-month time frame from the thought processes, as well as executing and building the unit and picking cities where the tour is going to go.

Since it does touch across the four major tenets of our brand, we had people from multiple different departments involved in this: we had our charity team involved for the pet adoptions, we had our community team involved, we had our awareness team involved, we had our “brand aura” personality team involved and most importantly, we had our merchandising team involved to help individually merchandise the entire experience.

RTP: How long will the Road Show be on the road?

Richmer: We’re looking to take this through November of this year. Our goal is to end up here back in Las Vegas where we started. We’re launching a “Vote For Your Own City” campaign, where we’ve picked some of our most loyal cities that we’d love to give back to, but we also want to be able to give the rest of the country an opportunity to voice to us if they really want us to go there. If we have a city that shows a ton of support for us and wants us to come there, we’ve left our road map open a little bit and our road trip can take us anywhere that our customer base wants as well. We’re purposely leaving this open so that we decide on opportunities that make sense for us at that given time.

RTP: How do you feel your strengths as a brand transfer over to the promotion of the Road Show?

Richmer: Whether we’re looking at doing something in the digital space or the physical space, we always put our ‘service’ filter on. Even in Austin, a lot of people came through thinking, ‘What’s the catch?’ because there’s always some sort of catch and most consumers don’t feel they get to enjoy something for free anymore. This wasn’t about a ‘buy one, get one’ deal, or if you donate this, you get this, we truly just wanted people to come by, meet us, say hi and hang out.

Featured Event

Join 5k+ attendees for an immersive experience where you can get inspired by retail’s most innovative minds and see their big ideas in action.



Access The Media Kit


Access Our Editorial Calendar

If you are downloading this on behalf of a client, please provide the company name and website information below: