Zappos takes to the road to connect with consumers

Source: Zappos
Feb 15, 2017
Glenn Taylor

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

Lacking the physical store outreach of its mighty parent company,, Zappos this year is rolling out a “Friends with Benefits Road Show” to allow its loyal customers — and hopefully some new converts — to see, touch and feel its products.

“When you aren’t able to physically experience something, sometimes it can be a little harder to connect with the brand,” said Kristin Richmer, senior brand marketing manager of Zappos, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “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.”

A 40-foot shipping container will cross the U.S. throughout 2017, housing exclusive merchandise, including celeb-curated Zappos products and local fashion displays.

“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,” said Ms. Richmer. Zappos is also partnering with local adoption shelters to offer free pet adoptions on weekends.

The road show kicked off in Austin, TX from Jan. 27-29. Nashville and Atlanta are next, with future destination announcements coming. Each city visited will be treated as a unique brand campaign in keeping with its overall goals: reactivating customers, acquiring new ones and keeping retention high.

Ultimately, the Road Show is designed to showcase Zappos’ commitment to creating service through experiences.

“Whether we’re looking at doing something in the digital space or the physical space, we always put our ‘service’ filter on,” states Ms. Richmer. “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.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Can road shows and pop-ups do enough to help pure-play e-tailers connect with consumers? Are such ventures into the physical space even necessary?

"Good to know that Zappos understands that they need to make physical connections with people."
"What better way to create excitement around a brand? This is exactly the type of innovation it takes to remain relevant in retail."
"It is like going to Vegas and taking the Zappos Tour."

Join the Discussion!

15 Comments on "Zappos takes to the road to connect with consumers"

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Mark Ryski

Roadshows like this do provide PR value, but since they can reach so few customers the overall impact is minimal. Experimentation is good, and connecting with customers is never bad, so I commend Zappos and others for trying, but it’s unlikely that this will have any meaningful or lasting impact.

Jasmine Glasheen
Jasmine Glasheen
Contributing Editor
11 months 7 days ago

What better way to create excitement around a brand? This is exactly the type of innovation it takes to remain relevant in retail. By combining local and altruistic elements, Zappos’ road show will bring in a wide variety of customers. The word around town is that physical stores are here to stay, but they’re going to function a lot differently.

Doug Garnett

Good to know that Zappos understands that they need to make physical connections with people. Far too many companies have fallen for the digerati myth that online presence is all it takes.

Retail stores, or a presence in other retail stores, is the only way to make the quantum jump they’ll need for future success. And they will be following in well-trod paths here as efforts that start digital eventually need to become physical.

Gene Detroyer

If I am a brick-and-mortar retailer with a substantive online presence, I want new customers to come to my store … just once. Come, see me, know me. Then go home and buy online forever. The online connection is ultimately easier and more convenient for a customer to buy my products. Try more, buy more.

So if it is good for that brick-and-mortar retailer, it is doubly good for Amazon and Zappos. If Zappos is reaching people who don’t totally know how they operate, this will be an introduction. Then the customer’s conclusion will be, “Gee, why do I ever have to go to a store again?”

Max Goldberg

Zappos hopes to use a road show/pop-up to physically connect with its customers. It’s a great idea. By making its customers feel special and appreciated, Zappos further builds its brand. Not all pure e-commerce retailers can realize cost benefits from this type of exercise, but Zappos, which has a unique relationship with its consumers, should be able to pull it off.

Lee Kent

I love that Zappos is taking it on the road but I did take exception to the comment at the top of this article that says “Zappos this year is rolling out a ‘Friends with Benefits Road Show’ to allow its loyal customers — and hopefully some new converts — to see, touch and feel its products.” This road show is not about the products at all. Anyone who wants to see, feel or touch the products can do so at local store(s). This show is about seeing, feeling and touching the brand itself — The people.

Smart move, and just the buzz about it is enough for their customers to know how much they care.

Kudos and my 2 cents.

Mel Kleiman

The answer is simple. If you take the approach that Zappos is taking — that it is not about sales but rather it is about connecting, and you already have customers who love your brand — you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

You have just added a high touch component to a brand that already has a high feel component.

It is like going to Vegas and taking the Zappos Tour. If you are a retailer and ever get to Vegas you need to take the tour that Zappos offers.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

Physical retailers have got to take lessons from Zappos. The medium is the message, as Zappos says “we want to make your life easier, better and even more interesting — let us do things together that benefit us all.” I have always been intrigued that physical retailers take so little advantage of their space and customer interests to run profile events, education and social gatherings. Pet, crafts, building supply and some fashion retail and malls get this, and it is surely the extension of those special shopping days that increase store sales.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Connecting with customers is always good. Providing innovative experiences is good. The mobile container store is an interesting approach. If Zappos really connects, interacts and learns about customers while offering them a fun experience this is a win-win situation.

Ryan Mathews

Of course, it all depends on how you define “enough” but, yes, this kind of activity builds excitement, rewards loyalists and maybe even converts a few skeptics. The primary place pure digital players have to connect is obviously online, but I see nothing wrong with a little physical flag waving now and then.

Anne Howe

Zappos has a great authentic sensibility. “Come hang out” is what they really want people to do, and they don’t mind spending against a core value that’s part of the DNA of the brand. I may buy something from them today just because over the last ten or so years they have NEVER let me down. Truly a great company.

Anna Tolmach

As recently as Jan 23rd on the how I built this podcast, the CEO of Zappos positioned the company as a customer service company that happened to sell shoes. That vision seems further and further out of reach as they move towards giving customers a physical experience with their product. That being said, finding creative ways to own the customer experience, including providing a tactile element — whether it’s a la the Warby Parker home try-on program or otherwise — is a broader theme for digitally native ecommerce companies.

Mohamed Amer

There are many ways to connect with consumers across the digital and physical spaces; pop-ups are certainly an easy, low-cost, and dynamic option. By delivering consistent experiences across a variety of customer touchpoints, Zappos and other brands can better positioned to create enduring connections with their customers and communities.

In this specific case, Zappos is truly unique in that they view the company as primarily a service company that is creating experiences in which they sell shoes and clothing. The company is a living management lab with fresh ideas worth considering and adapting by more established brands.

Scott Magids
11 months 7 days ago
Pop-ups like the one Zappos has created offer an excellent way to extend an online retailer’s presence, and help to create a deeper emotional connection with the brand — something that is often challenging in an online-only world. The event has music, food, beer, and even puppies – Zappos has hit all the emotional motivators and key triggers that get people excited. As Zappos’ CEO has said, they are a customer service company which happens to sell shoes – and they serve as a prime example of how important that emotional connection really is. Yes, it’s true that they sell good shoes at a fair price, but so do many other online stores. Zappos’ differentiator is the emotional connection that its customers have with the brand. These events will reinforce that connection. Zappos is on-point with its “come hang out” strategy here as well. A road show that says “Come look at our shoes” does very little beyond what the website already accomplishes. The event isn’t about the shoes, it’s about the relationship. Events like… Read more »
Ricardo Belmar

Building a deeper connection with loyal customers and attracting new customers is always a good thing for any retailer. While Zappos isn’t going to generate significant sales from this pop-up approach, they will create a lot of buzz and PR around their brand and create touch points with customers that may ultimately become brand ambassadors for them. Those customers will certainly tell their friends about their experience, post it to Facebook and Instagram, and end up creating a larger web of new customers for Zappos. This is a great way for Zappos to demonstrate their culture and show customers what their all about. There’s really no downside to this for them.

Would it work for other online pure-plays? Absolutely, so long as they have a message and a story to tell, not just a cool product. Zappos has that, and it shows.

"Good to know that Zappos understands that they need to make physical connections with people."
"What better way to create excitement around a brand? This is exactly the type of innovation it takes to remain relevant in retail."
"It is like going to Vegas and taking the Zappos Tour."

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