Son of Zappos.com Is Chasing Me Around Europe! 

Last month I shared the story of how I went to Zappos.com looking for a pair of 8-1/2 EEEE shoes and then bought them direct from the original manufacturer (New Balance). Whereupon for many days thereafter as I surfed the Internet, I was followed around onto various landing pages by Zappos ads showing me teeny-tiny pictures of shoes that I had looked at and failed to buy from Zappos. The upshot: I was creeped out.

Last month, I shared the story of how I went to Zappos.com looking for a pair of 8-1/2 EEEE shoes and then bought them direct from the original manufacturer (New Balance).

Whereupon for many days thereafter, as I surfed the Internet, I was followed around onto various landing pages by Zappos ads showing me teeny-tiny pictures of shoes that I had looked at and failed to buy from Zappos.

The upshot: I was creeped out.

“Zappos.com Is Chasing Me All Over the Internet” was one of the most-read-and most-commented-on-stories of the year according to the editor of Target Marketing. It attracted long screeds from some readers telling me I should get out of the business or get with the program of modern Internet marketing, while others agreed with me that “Big Brother” surveillance is indeed creepy.

Only one correspondent “got it”-understood how I should have been approached to re-think my decision not to buy shoes from Zappos.com. From Amy Fanter:

Would it be really wrong of me to say that while I find these ads highly invasive, I find it highly offensive that they don’t really do a good job in closing the sale. Ostensibly you’re seeing re-targeted ads because you’ve gone to a site and fallen out of a shopping cart. Or maybe the seller thinks that if they feed you the right offer you will come back and buy again. The reality is most of these re-targeted ads aren’t good because they don’t follow the basic tenants of DM. If they did, they’d be a whole lot more effective. Bottom line, if you’re going through the trouble to chase me down, why not treat me to a discount? Or a reward to return to the site. Creepy is whole lot less creepy when it serves my self-interest …

Fanter followed up her post with an email directly to me with a hyperlink to an article on re-marketing.

So what can a direct marketer do to entice the non-buyer of shoes to come back and buy?
Chasing me all over the Internet showing me teeny pictures of all the shoes I rejected is emphatically NOT marketing. It’s a bunch of smartypants techie kids puffed up with pride on how clever they are.

In the world of wearing apparel, no item is more size-sensitive than shoes. My feet are weird-size 8-1/2 EEEE-ugly square box-like things.

I am interested only in 8-1/2 EEEE shoes. Nothing else.

When I went on Zappos.com, two questions were asked: (1) did I want men’s or women’s shoes and (2) my size. I dutifully filled in the blanks and was shown a ton of shoes. Since the kiddies at Zappos knew my shoe size, they could have gotten my serious attention with the following:

An Important Message from Zappos.com about Men’s 8-1/2 EEEE Shoes!
Thank you for stopping by Zappos.com and sharing your shoe size. Only 2.7% of men match your unusual shoe size. Yet Zappos has in stock for immediate shipment 229 different pairs of shoes in your size from 27 manufacturers around the world at the lowest prices anywhere—sport shoes, dress shoes, walking shoes, casuals. Zappos merchandise comes to you with an ironclad guarantee of your complete satisfaction. (Return a purchase any time within a year for a full refund.) Plus … shipping both ways is always FREE. Save time. Save money. Come to Zappos.com-one-stop shopping for all of your shoe needs! And click here for a 15% discount coupon if you order by midnight, April 10, 2012.

Frankly I’d be nuts not to go back to Zappos.com!

But alas, these kiddies are not schooled in Rule No. 1 of marketing: If you want a response, you must make an offer.

No offer, no response.

Period. End of argument.

Now a Zappos Clone Is Chasing Me in Europe
We arrived in Basel, Switzerland for meetings on the day my Zappos story was published on the Target Marketing website. When I logged in to my Yahoo! account, I was hit smack in the face with a collection of the ugliest, most gawd-awful gaudy shoes—men’s and women’s—plus women’s clothes from a Zappos clone called Zalando.

Take a look at the media player at right for a sampling of the crap I have been forced to look at all week every time I go to my email.

My bet: Zappos sold Zalando the cookie that it planted in my computer. “We can’t sell this guy our shoes,” Zappos must have told them. “See if you can make this turkey gobble.”

But again, no offer. Therefore no response.

Finally, when I got to Amsterdam the following week, a Zalando ad was on my Yahoo! page to greet me, true to form and chasing me around Europe. (See the second image in the mediaplayer to the right.).

Denny Hatch can be reached at dennyhatch@yahoo.com. His website is http://dennyhatch.com

Author: Denny Hatch

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

6 thoughts on “Son of Zappos.com Is Chasing Me Around Europe! ”

  1. As always, Denny, you make important points . . . as have the early commentators. Personally, I don’t want to be stalked on the internet or anywhere else . . . unless the stalking benefits me and I’ve requested it.

    For instance, I’m encouraging Raley’s (large grocery chain based in our area) to reinstitute their Preferred Customer card that used to keep track of our purchases. But this time only for those who want it.

    "What’s in it for me" is then getting targeted offers that have to do with our age, interests and lifestyle. We have two dogs, but no cats. So stop with cat litter offers! We don’t need or use Tampons, hard liquor, charcoal or dozens of other things for which they are forever giving us coupons.

    Like almost everything with the internet and today’s amazing technology, there are flipsides to everything!

  2. Not every product is a simplistic one-stage consumer based product type sale. We’ve found since using retargeting our B to B product sales have literally doubled. The appearance of our ads in retargeting campaigns seems to reinforce the product credibility and not the reverse. Our average sales cycle utilizing retargeting also dropped dramatically giving us a double whammy effect…more sales and a shorter buy cycle. If a product is complex, high priced, and has multiple stages before a sale is achieved, then retargeting from our experience not only works, it allows us to dominate. If it "follows" you at 2am when you’re on the crapper reading an article on your tablet…phenomenal…glad we reached you without all the other "noise" present! If you’re in Europe on vacation? Good. It’s called capitalism.

  3. Denny,

    Just a quick question about your articles in general: If you’d like me to see an image, why not embed it in the body of your post with an enlarge button so I can actually see it? That 2" square "media player" to the right that displays postage-stamp images does nothing but clutter the space.

    (Jeez, I’m turning into an old curmudgeon like you!)

  4. Hi Denny, as someone who also has weird sized feet and shops exclusively online for shoes, I can sympathize. I’ve also abandoned shopping carts on Zappos only to be chased around the web by them with pics of shoes I almost bought – this has also happened to me with sites- hats, posters, luggage – and it creeped me out as well and did not entice me to go back and purchase anything from those sites. I agree that Zappos and others are dropping the ball by not offering incentives to go back. I think this targeting tactic is asinine and shows that online marketers have a long ways to go to understand how they can leverage the possibilities of targeted online advertising to their advantage. Thanks for the articles!

  5. Hey Denny-
    Late to the original post but appreciated the update. I’d be the last to bemoan some of the things that it’s possible to do in a web environment but I’d also be the first to point out that a good idea, poorly executed, is no better than a bad idea. A lot of behavioral targeting programs seem to have an execution problem. And I’d suggest the problem might be automation.
    If as an advertiser I make such a buy I’m contracting for a certain amount of ‘targeted’ circulation. Absent controlling parameters for exposure over time I can see how the prospect winds up being ‘stalked.’ I’m sure it sometimes works. But we’ve all seen mindless, automated Google Ad Words ads like "Buy Chemical Engineers on E-Bay" that are generated without ongoing human oversight.
    It strikes me that serving ads all over the Internet as to a prospect who hasn’t yet plunked down their hard-earned cash is equally misguided. Give me a reason to complete the sale. Last I looked that’s what we’re paid to do. Sure, there are big-ticket, long sales cycle situations, as B2B notes, where reinforcement yields a positive effect. But that’s a completely different scenario from what is, at the end of the day, retailing.
    And as I like to say at every opportunity, retailing is about selling.

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