Zappos recently announced it would begin selling single shoes and mixed size shoes on its site. Those with orthotics or the need for a single shoe are singing the company’s praises. As am I! My child has used orthotics for several years now and finding the right shoes that will fit is a challenge.
While you might not think of this being a big deal. Consider that you have a brace on one foot/leg and nothing on the other. The brace makes it necessary to have a much wider, and sometimes, longer shoe to accommodate the extra space the brace takes up. However, your other foot doesn’t need all that extra width or space. In an alternate scenario, you only need one shoe due to an accident, health complication, etc. What do you do?
In the past, such individuals would either have to buy two sets of shoes and attempt to trade the off-sized shoes with someone who needed the inverse set. Or the extra shoes would go unused in a closet. These customers were paying for what they didn’t need, and sometimes pay more for what they did need.
The move to offer mixed shoe sizes and single shoes, is completely on brand with Zappos corporate culture. At a company where the commitment to customers and customer service is legendary, these steps further its commitment to providing products for all customers.
While other brands have started to dabble in adaptive offerings, Zappos is really taking customer service to the next level. And why does this particular initiative work for the company? For these reasons:
- The customer experience is authentic to the brand’s values – Putting the customer first.
- It fulfills a need – Removing barriers for people with disabilities. As mentioned in my first post, this group makes up 20% of the US population, which is a huge under represented market in today’s retail landscape. This isn’t a trend or an emerging need. The need for adaptive clothing or alternate ways to use products has always been there, but its something that has come to the forefront recently. That said, the attention to inclusive design will only continue to grow as more companies put greater focus on diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices and in the products they develop.
- Its an extension of current product offerings – Zappos already sells shoes, they’re just packaging the products in a different way.
So what does this mean for other retailers?
Some retailers, such as Target, already have adaptive clothing. (I’ll elaborate on Target in another post.) While other retailers haven’t made a concerted effort to incorporate inclusively designed products into their portfolio yet.
That said, I see savvy retailers start to expand their assortment to incorporate inclusively designed products, and retailers either don’t have a strong brand identity or lack a strong customer relationship to fall behind quickly. As mentioned previously, this isn’t a trend, its a need that has always been there, and with retailers like Zappos paving the way, the attention to creating products to fill these needs will continue to grow.