Zappos Unveils Keys To Mobile Success

Smartphones and tablets have become key tools for today’s shoppers. Whether at home or on the go, consumers are consulting their mobile devices to browse inventory, research potential purchases and share their insights on retail experiences. As a result, merchants are investing more in mobile marketing, app development and other tools and tactics to boost loyalty and increase basket size.

During the second “Mcommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2012” conference, sponsored by Mobile Commerce Daily, executives from Zappos, CITI Bank, 7-Eleven licensee chain Alon Brands and others shared real life success stories and best practices regarding mobile. The event took place May 3, 2012, at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.

Zappos — a notable online footwear retailer — has developed a loyal following due to its vast product assortments, flexible shipping and return policies, and compelling branding strategies. From quirky TV commercials to gamified mobile applications, the retailer has excelled in creating memorable and consistent experiences across channels.


In the conference’s keynote speech, Alex Kirmse, Head of Mobile for Zappos, shared how the eTailer tackled smartphone and tablet commerce to optimize its reputation among first-time and frequent customers.

Currently touting a mobile team of three employees, Zappos views mobile as “a microcosm of the larger site, not a siloed channel,” Kirmse explained. “Everything that makes our e-Commerce and mobile sites successful are integrated into our apps. This requires our team to be experienced, connected to the rest of the company, and empowered [to understand] both the business side of the brand, as well as the customer experience.”

Through this integrated approach, Zappos executives better understand the browsing and buying behaviors of shoppers utilizing smartphones and tablets, and in turn, optimize features and capabilities for each experience. The Zappos app for Android, iPad and iPhone provide shoppers with in-depth zoom capabilities, as well as interactive web features, including 360-degree photo rotation, which was a collaboration between the product management, image/photo team and warehouse personnel.

Kirmse explained that although Zappos invests heavily in app development, SEO and mobile web traffic are top tools for customer acquisition. Conversely, apps are an outlet for frequent customers.

“The mobile web is like a really big net and we’re trying to capture customers wherever they are,” Kirmse said. “In fact, SEO, organic search results and paid traffic make up a large percentage of how we acquire customers. Apps are a loyalty tool. Although we don’t have a ton of analytics yet, we do know that app customers are better customers than mobile web [users]. Overall, app users have higher order value and are more loyal.”

Generally, consumers utilize smartphones as on-the-go utility tools to have a more streamlined and easy-to-operate experience, while tablets are used more in-depth at home, with apps that are more media rich and engaging.

Currently, tablet shoppers account for a majority of the eTailer’s mobile traffic, Kirmse reported. “Tablet is king for us; the iPad, specifically,” he said, “because of its larger images and the overall tablet experience. It’s a sweet spot for us. The iPhone does really well and the Android is solid, but isn’t close to the iPad’s impact. In our research, tablets aren’t an on-the-go device, and more of a coffee table device people are using during the weekends and evenings.”

Creating A Compelling App Experience
To boost customer engagement and satisfaction, Zappos experiments with “Easter eggs,” which are characterized as unexpected surprises or game-inspired features that are undocumented in an app or web site.

For example, when tablet users shake their devices while on the home screen, animated kittens are displayed. On the smartphone app, VIP shoppers’ screens get bombarded with badges when they log in. “Easter eggs are a really fun item for customers,” Kirmse said. “During testing, customers explained that they loved those fun, unique experiences.”

Zappos is testing and tweaking an array of strategies to keep customers in tune with app developments and new releases. Although the brand currently enables seamless product sharing via Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest integration will be added in the near future.

Moreover, the eTailer plans to implement badges, which will be displayed on consumers’ mobile screens to signify when items are in their carts. This tactic will help Zappos remain top of mind and increase overall purchase likelihood, Kirmse revealed.

“We’re all so used to seeing badges as a call-to-action on our mobile screens, whether it’s a text message or email,” Kirmse said. “This is just a reminder for customers and encourages them to open the app again.”

Zappos’ mobile team also is trialing push notifications to alert members when new items are available or when desired items are in stock. This contextual approach to direct marketing allows the merchant to make brand experiences more meaningful and drive action more effectively. Presently notifications are released concurrently with Zappos’ daily emails, but the team is trialing time and message frequency to keep shoppers connected in real time.

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