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Zappos exec: Apps are a loyalty tool

May 4, 2012

NEW YORK – A Zappos executive at Mobile Commerce Daily’s Mcommerce Summit conference said that although the mobile Web is a great way to capture new customers, the company is seeing more sales coming from its mobile applications.

During the “Amazon’s Zappos: What Retailers and Marketers Can Learn from a Customer-Centric Focus on Mobile User Experience” opening keynote, the executive discussed how Zappos is constantly innovating the mobile space to better reach consumers. The executive also talked about the company’s approach this year to experiment on new features while maintaining the architecture of its old features.

“The mobile Web is like a really big net and we’re trying to capture customers wherever they are at,” said Alex Kirmse, head of mobile at Zappos, Henderson, NV.

“Apps are a loyalty tool,” he said. “Although we don’t have a ton of analytics yet, we do know that app customers are better customers than mobile Web customers.”

Customer focus
According to Mr. Kirmse, the really big thing about Zappos is its customer service focus.

The company constantly takes a customer-centric approach.

Zappos built its first mobile app in October 2010 and the company decided to start with the iPad because there were already thousands of other apps in the app stores and at that point the tablet was still new.

Shortly after, the company rolled out applications for Android and iPhone devices.

For many marketers, apps can either reinforce the brand or tarnish it – and for Zappos it was critical to keep a high standard.

When the company was looking to launch its mobile apps, user testing and research were very important.

By testing to make sure the user experience was seamless, Zappos was able to address and problems early on.

The company’s goal early on was to make the core shopping experience as solid and smooth as possible, per Mr. Kirmse.

Zappos also looked at customer reviews and saw what its customers where saying about its mobile efforts – both positive and negative. From there, the company was able to change what was necessary and overall create a better user experience.

To make sure the user experience was up to par, Zappos focused on analytics to better understand what its customers were doing.

Zappos saw that the iPad was its biggest platform.

According to Mr. Kirmse, the iPad has the highest order value, followed by iPhone and then Android devices.

“Tablet is king for us, the iPad specifically, Mr. Kirmse said. “It’s about those larger images and the overall tablet experience.

“It’s a sweet spot for us,” he said. “The iPhone does really well and the Android is solid, but not close to what the iPad does.”

Although the Zappos mobile team is small, the company is constantly looking at ways to enhance the mobile experience.

For example, Zappos wanted to leverage its vast amount of product images and has incorporated a 360-degree view functionality into its mobile efforts that via an interactive touch make the shoe rotate.

Best foot forward
According to the executive, one of the biggest areas is the top-of-mind mentality.

The company is using push notifications, which lets the company send useful reminders to consumers about products that are back in stock.

Consumers can sign-up to be notified when their favorite product comes back in their size.

For Zappos, push notifications is a whole new direct marketing channel.

It is also very important for marketers to keep updating their mobile apps to constantly stay fresh for consumers.

Zappos frequently updates its mobile apps to stay top-of-mind to consumers.

In addition to keeping apps updated, it is also important to make them fun and interactive.

When consumers are using the Zappos iPad app and shake the device, it starts to rain little kittens.

Additionally when the company’s VIP customers access the mobile apps, it will rain VIP badges.

Features such as that helps the company better build a relationship with its users, as well as give them a fun incentive to keep coming back to the mobile apps.

The executive also said that it is important for marketers to separate mobile into phone and tablet.

According to Mr. Kirmse, the mobile phone is more of a tool that consumers are using on the go, while tablets are used at home, usually in the evenings.

“Our strategy is to speak to the strengths of those devices,” Mr. Kirmse said.

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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