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Zappos Takes a Close Look at Consumers' Mcommerce Patterns

February 22, 2013

Aki Iida
Head of Mobile

As head of mobile at, Aki Iida wants to continue to find ways for the shoe and apparel retailer to be front of mind for shoppers. He spoke to eMarketer’s Christine Bittar about mobile shoppers, how to appeal to consumers on smartphones and where people really are when they place orders.

eMarketer: Do you think consumers are using their smartphones to actually fulfill a Zappos order or is it still more of a shopping tool and orders are finished on the desktop?

Aki Iida: It’s a combination of both. There’s definitely been progress; more people now complete the full purchase on mobile. In testing, however, we’ve seen there’s still a subset of customers who like the app experience, say it’s fantastic, but are hesitant to complete the purchase there [because] they need to see merchandise on a bigger screen. People also use [our app] as a browsing tool and for checking on the whereabouts of orders.

Initially, we were wondering if people were looking to purchase things on the website or the app because there’s a browsing mechanism on the app. Looking at conversion numbers, my view so far is that a person doesn’t come to the app and necessarily buy something right away, so there’s a fair amount of browsing as well, so it’s really comparable to the website.

“Tablets are very different from phones. Interestingly enough, I think the phone mirrors the PC to some extent.”

eMarketer: Of the people placing orders with smartphones, are they doing this while on the go or do they wait until they’re home?

Iida: From our surveys, we see that a significant number of people are using the mobile apps from home. If you look at the sales patterns, however, we see orders throughout the day, which to me says they’re ordering on the go as well. These might be people at work or who are out and about. We get customer feedback about that, too.

One time somebody was in the bathroom and they placed an order and then tweeted, “Hey, this is the most expensive bathroom trip ever. Thanks, Zappos app.” [People] will spend $400 buying shoes and clothes while they’re in the bathroom.

eMarketer: Where do tablets fit in?

Iida: Tablets are very different from phones. Interestingly enough, I think the phone mirrors the PC to some extent. From what I can tell, tablets are actually a little more active during off-work hours—after 5 or 6pm—and on weekends, which is really interesting. We also see this over long weekends and holidays.

I think with the phone or PC, a person is actively trying to make a purchase, whereas with that tablet, it’s like you’re holding a book. It’s more leisurely. It’s something you wouldn’t do sitting at a desk, but would do when you’re actually laying down, because obviously it’s a little harder to lay down with your phone and slowly look at things. You’re not going to carry your PC to your couch and sit with it.

eMarketer: So does that mean that you’re seeing different shopping and buying patterns with the tablets as opposed to desktops and phones?

Iida: Yes. One thing we’ve seen is that [mobile] definitely extends the day. So the long weekends and holidays, which can sometimes be slower days, are complemented now by mobile. Think of people at a barbecue on the Fourth of July weekend pulling out their phones after you’ve just had a few beers and had the barbecue or being at Thanksgiving with your family and pulling out your tablet leisurely while everybody’s watching football, and you’re shopping. In a lot of ways, the desktop or even laptop has a working connotation to it and takes more time to start up and actually open the web browser, whereas on a phone, it can be a lot more impulsive.

Time of usage is really fluctuating, but the high time is primarily evenings. That’s especially true if we include tablets. We don’t think tablet use is the same as a PC, and I'm not sure how much of a secret this is but most people do their shopping while they’re at work [with the office computer].

“I'm not sure how much of a secret this is, but most people do their shopping while they’re at work [with the office computer].”

eMarketer: Were your mobile app and app enhancements designed with the idea that they’re being used on the run, or both in and out of the home?

Iida: Mobile offers features that PCs don’t, so we would like to continue to innovate with those features. For example, last year we looked at how a lot of people are using their smartphones and tablets to interact with social media, so you’ll see all of our apps have native Facebook and Twitter integration so that you can quickly tweet while you’re shopping that you’ve seen a particular product, share it with friends or put it on Facebook.

A longer version of this interview is available to eMarketer corporate subscribers only. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a corporate subscriber, click here.

Check out today’s other articles, “Steady Gains for Mobile Paid Search” and “Android, Symbian Dominate India's Smartphone Market.”


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