Zapping Up Buyers

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Online retailer Zappos consistently scores high points for its innovative marketing and customer experience. The company that started out in 1999 pedaling footwear has grown to become merchandiser of men’s and women’s apparel, handbags, kids clothing and eyewear?and continues to add categories since its headline-grabbing purchase by Amazon for a cool $1.2bln two years ago. As the cable industry steps toward its biggest year yet in terms of rolling out the television experience wherever and whenever customers want it, we thought we’d wind down 2011 with some insight about what works in the mobile and online environments. Michelle Thomas, senior brand marketing manager, tells Cathy Applefeld Olson why the company thinks mobile-y and acts socially, and vice versa. And although Zappos does just a minuscule portion of its advertising on television, Thomas explains what cable networks could do to get the retailer to sit up and take notice.

What’s the breakdown of media?online, television, print?Zappos advertises with?

MT: Online (90%), print (7%), TV (1%), out of home (1%), other (1%).

The Zappos television budget is tiny by design. What cable networks do you tend to target for advertising?

MT: We are running on networks like E!, Bravo, ABC Family, TBS and ESPN. These networks index well from our MRI/Experian data and have proven to be successful for us in the past.

Can you provide us with some details about your current holiday campaign?

MT: We currently have a multichannel holiday campaign running that includes TV, print, online and social integrations, all focused on “Celebrating the Art of Gifting.”

Do broader integrations make more sense than traditional spot advertising for Zappos when it comes to the television platform?

MT: We do believe that deeper integrations allow us to tell our brand story more in-depth than traditional spot advertising. But we don’t discount the importance of what spot placements do. Our focus is on the four C’s?clothing, customer service, culture and community?and rolling all of those messages into a 30-second spot is really difficult and challenging to do!

So given that environment, what can cable companies do to get Zappos’ business?

MT: Innovation is core to the DNA of our brand. Networks that think untraditionally about a traditional media?and being first to market?will at least get us to step up and take notice.

Cable operators are making inroads toward the realization of TV Everywhere. As an innovative mobile marketer, what advice would you give companies increasingly migrating to mobile applications in terms of user experience, customer engagement, etc.?

MT: I think for marketers it’s more about shifting mindsets within every customer touch point to think “mobile-y” and to think socially. I also think it’s important for any campaign, whether it be TV, print, or digital, to think of the mobile user experience and optimize the campaign with the mobile user in mind. Mobile is a more personal device and provides greater opportunity for engagement. The trick is understanding and playing off the synergies between mobile and other consumer touch points for the optimal experience.

(Longtime entertainment industry reporter Cathy

Applefeld Olson is delighted to be documenting media’s wild ride into the 21st century)

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