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Zappos exec: Personalized mobile experiences drive app retention, social engagement

NEW YORK ? A Zappos executive at the Mcommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2016 discussed the online retailer?s focus on personalization through mobile platforms, a strategy that prompts loyal customers to leave product reviews and interact with the brand on social media, in turn fueling application retention.

During the Zappos: How Mobile is Propelling Further Growth and Strengthening Customer Ties for the No. 1 Online and Mobile Footwear Retailer session, the executive highlighted Zappos? commitment to being a customer-centric organization, a belief that also carries over to its mobile initiatives. The brand prefers to foster one-to-one relationships with shoppers to make them feel like less of a number in a sea of customers, and more like a valued friend.

?We want to make sure the customers who are users of these [social] platforms will not in the future uninstall the app,? said Erika Paman-Mercado, customer loyalty operations supervisor at Zappos. ?There has to be that retention and for us to retain [customers?] business, they have to be constantly engaged.?

Customer service before all
Zappos ensures it keeps customer-facing initiatives at the forefront of all its strategies, with each employee and department maintaining a commitment to external or internal service.

?It?s always about the personal, emotional connections,? Ms. Paman-Mercado said.

Five percent of Zappos? customer base regularly contacts the customer loyalty team, while the remaining 95 percent uses the mobile app, mobile site or Web site but does not interact with customer service representatives. This leaves a massive opportunity for Zappos to fuel customer engagement by casting a spotlight on its variety of support options.

For example, shoppers who visit its mobile or Web site will immediately spot a customer service hotline number atop the screen, alongside a live chat option. The Zappos iOS app follows the same format, with a banner in the middle of the screen advertising enticing features, such as complimentary next business day shipping, a tap-to-call button and free 365 day returns.

The brand operates by the principle that what customers see first is vastly important and sets the tone for their shopping experiences.

?We never get a second chance to make a first impression,? Ms. Paman-Mercado said.

Zappos also drives app engagement ? and consequently, retention ? by rewarding loyal customers and encouraging them to interact with the brand by leaving general feedback and product reviews. Additionally, if a loyal customer has a special occasion of which Zappos is aware, a representative will reach out and send a homemade card or gift, with the intention of making him or her feel like part of the Zappos extended family.

?The goal is whether it?s the app or mobile site, it?s always about the customer service and experience,? Ms. Paman-Mercado said.

Going to the tech side
Zappos also works on driving instant gratification through quick integration of the latest mobile-facing technologies ? and manages to inject a bit of humor when piloting these new services.

When the retailer first added Apple Pay to its repertoire of mobile payment options, it displayed a picture of a kitten shooting lasers at a fake credit card to demonstrate the ease of snapping a photo of a card and having that information immediately repopulated within the platform. ?Lasercat? helped drive Apple Pay usage and brought a smile to consumers? faces.

Ms. Paman-Mercado also discussed the evolution of Zappos? entire mobile platform, which includes iOS Touch ID, 360-degree product views, Android Quick Preview and product recommendations.

Future initiatives will see the company introduce a redesigned homepage as well as new shopping features.

?Anything that we do to enhance our mobile app, it?s always about the personalization,? Ms. Paman-Mercado said. ?People want to be treated like royalty, and we have to make sure the service we are providing is tailored to them.?