Zappos and retargeting

Recently the online shoeseller Zappos has been criticized for using ad retargeting. What happens is you go to Zappos and put something in your online cart but don’t complete the transaction.  Then you see lots of ads all over the web saying – how about buying those flip-flops you looked at?  It drives some sales, and annoys some people.

I won’t get into the privacy argument or whether the government should intervene.  But this is absolutely the wrong move for Zappos.

Zappos has built its brand on great customer service.  You can return your shoes for any or no reason with free shipping.  When it made an error in its pricing software, it honored the unreasonably low prices, at a cost of $1.6 Million.  Why would it want to make people the least bit worried about shopping?

Zappos might say that most people aren’t concerned, so overall the program is profitable, but that’s missing the point.  Trouble free shopping is a core part of the brand and should not be compromised for any price.  There’s a joke about George Bernard Shaw which illustrates this point (“…now we’re just haggling over price“).  Like virtue, brand value is hard to build up, and easy to tarnish.

What should Zappos do?  Discontinue the ads, ostentatiously fire the agency and its head of marketing.  Maybe send some free shoes to everyone they can find who complained about it online.  Perhaps they could send me a free pair too, or maybe some sunglasses.  Of course, I’m hard to please, so I might end up sending them back.

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One Response to “Zappos and retargeting”

  1. Scott Locklin Says:

    I think this has become an industry practice with any kind of “sellin’ on the internet.” Ebay and Amazon both do it, though I guess more unobtrusively.

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