Zappos, the online retailer of shoes and clothing, is about to become a social networking site, borrowing aspects of Twitter and Facebook and applying them to their customers’ particular passion: buying stuff.
CEO Tony Hsieh Wednesday confirmed to Between The Lines that it is working on an internal project that will “soft launch” in the next two weeks that will enable what he calls “social shopping’’ at Zappos.
Here’s how social networking for a purpose (shopping) will take place:
• Profiles. Akin to Facebook, Zappos’ customers will be encouraged to create personal profiles. On their profiles, customers will describe the types of shoes, clothing, accessories and other products they like and broadly speaking are interested in.
• Followers. Akin to Twitter, other Zappos customers can register to follow any other customer. They won’t have to ask the other customer’s permission.
• Closets. Unlike either Twitter or Facebook, customers will place products they are looking at in personal closets, housed online at Zappos.
• Socializing. Then, akin to both Facebook and Twitter, the customer can ask all friends and followers to comment on the footwear or jewelry or housewares they put in their closets and are thinking about buying. This will allow them to get responses from their “social shopping” network on what’s good or bad about each product or the maker of same, while they are making up their minds.
When customers who take part in the social shopping log on to Zappos they will see a constant feed of what’s been put in the closet of other people they’re following or the comments that have been generated by other customers. This will be similar to Facebook’s update stream, but Hsieh calls it an “activity stream.” The “social shopping” service and activity streams will be tested internally by staff and their friends over the next two weeks, Hsieh said. Then, it will be allowed to grow organically at Zappos.com, with customers able to sign on, give feedback and help improve features. The company, which already operates a Facebook page, may also allow customers to pull in their existing friends on Facebook, using Facebook Connect. This could mean that their Activity Streams on Zappos get melded with their streams of updates on Facebook.
The idea is to mimic some of the aspects of the offline shopping experience, where friends or family look at products that each is considering while they are wandering around a store or mall deciding what to buy, he said.That is a social experience, he said, while online shopping so far is “a pretty solitary and isolating activity.’
“So we’re trying to combine the two,’’ he said.
This looks to be Zappos first effort to use Twitter- and Facebook-like social media techniques to respond to and spur shopping activity. To date, as reported in the ZDNet case study “Following Zappos” posted Tuesday, Hsieh and other Zappos managers have not tried to generate a return from their use of tweets, blogging, streaming video or other such online methods for communicating with friends and followers. They have mainly been used to establish a personality for the company online and crack the “cold screen” of a computer, where they interact with past, present or potential customers.
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