Daily Dose of iQ: Zappos Testing #AskZappos Social Commerce Service

Jul 29, 2014 — Jerome Valdez

Yesterday (July 28), Inc. reported on a customer service first from Zappos, called Ask Zappos, which works like a personal shopper or concierge.

"Customers can send images to an Ask Zappos personal shopper a number of different ways--from posting a picture to Instagram (with the hashtag #AskZappos) to attaching it to a text message," wrote Inc.'s Jill Krasny. "The Zappos shopper then uses the image to look up the product and deliver a set of shopping links."

Posting an Instagram photo of the desired item with the #AskZappos feels a lot like the #AmazonCart Twitter service.

Zappos is renowned for its customer service and now Amazon owns it. Not surprisingly, this new #AskZappos service looks and feels a lot like the recent #AmazonCart service we blogged about in May.

Still, #AskZappos seems like a cool experiment in personalized customer service. There is a segment of Zappos' customers who would appreciate this high-touch interaction. This could be particularly useful when people come across an item in their everyday lives that they covet, but they don’t know what brand or model it is.

It could also enable "showrooming." Something like this: walk around your local mall, find a product you like, text the photo to Zappos with #AskZappos, and get product links to order online and get it delivered to your house.

If I were to use the service, it would need to depend on the type of product and context in which I discovered it. If I were shopping for clothes or shoes (what Zappos is famous for), I probably would not use the service. A big part of clothes and shoe shopping is expressing yourself uniquely. But the moment you see an item being worn, its uniqueness is diminished. So to take a photo of an unknown pair of shoes to identify and buy them seems to be counterintuitive to fashion.

But posting a photo, hashtagging it and waiting for Zappos to send you shopping links requires the same (or more) effort as doing a search on your mobile device for the same info.

Considering the window-shopping scenario, though, if I’m in a mall and come across a product that I like in a store, then I should be able to determine the make and model. It seems like the same or less effort to simply do a search on my mobile device for that item. The search results will likely include Amazon links to buy it. So the process of capturing the image, hashtagging it, then waiting for shopping links from #AskZappos seems like a lot of overhead for basically the same outcome.

I can think of one scenario in which I’d likely use #AskZappos. If I were looking for functional home furnishings, electronics, or fitness accessories, then I’d take a photo in order to find out more, and how I might purchase it. For example, if I were at a friend’s house and saw that they were using an excellent coffee maker, then I’d be interested in how I might purchase it and how much it would cost me.

One scenario where #AskZappos could work: If you're at a friend's house and you want to know the price of their coffee maker without asking your friend.

Social commerce is a growing area of retail, particularly in light of recent news about the Pinterest/Shopify partnership and the Facebook “Buy” button.

For active users, the social extension of the shopping experience will either be an interesting fleeting experiment or a notable evolution. Zappos seems to be wondering if a higher-touch, concierge-like experience will be the missing piece that breaks down yet another barrier between customers and their purchase decision. Furthermore, because it’s designed to be done via the camera on your mobile device, it can be done spontaneously.

Topics: Retail Operations, Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry, Customer Experience, e-Commerce, Retail Marketing

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