Zappos has always been a leader in innovation when it comes to online shopping. Remember the days where “Timmy” was in the news? If you’ve forgotten, you can read about it here. Basically, Zappos believes that customers should take the lead when it comes to customer service – at the time, an exchange between a customer and Zappos rep went viral, as the customer tested this theory by insisting on being referred to in the third person, and the rep obliged without missing a beat.
Now they’ve taken to the mall – no, they’re not planning to open a retail location. Instead, they spent time people watching to learn more about the shopping experience, hoping to find the key elements to bring to the online world. Of course they are interested in taking people from brick and mortar stores and swaying them to shop online.
Zappos sets the bar high, and taking on this task is no surprise. However, the jury is still out on whether or not the company can identify and recreate those key aspects that make shopping enjoyable. I think the one area that will be a challenge is the social aspect, as well as appealing to the senses. Part of the allure of shopping is in the environment – a bright, clean store with music in the background. Another aspect is the actual look and feel of the items people shop for – being able to touch items, try them on, and show them to others is something that will be very difficult to replicate online.
I give credit to Zappos for taking this initiative and am excited to see what they come up with. While online shopping has grown significantly since its inception, I don’t see it replacing brick and mortar shopping completely, or at a rate to hurt those brick and mortar businesses. You never know though, and if anyone can raise the bar, it’s Zappos.