Shoe Gazing

| Zappos created a map on its site showing, in real-time, orders being placed for its shoes across the U.S. Other than hypnotizing Zappos employees and allowing New Yorkers to see for themselves whether they have better fashion sense than the rest of the country, is the map doing anything to help Zappos sell more shoes? As people embrace thrift and feel guiltier about luxury purchases, could the map help convince Zappos’ browsers that there’s no shame in splurging on shoes when they can see other people doing it, continuously, all across the country? (HT: Charles Harvey) [%comments]


Well every shoe that pops up as being sold is linked to the product page for that shoe, so maybe the idea is that customers will see a shoe they want to buy while watching the map.


Well, you and others are talking about the site, and I just went and looked at Zappos for the 1st time ever, so I think it's working.


I was planning on buying shoes in a store yesterday (a specific pair). Then I saw the map. I immediately decided to buy from Zappos just to see if my purchase showed up in real time in my location, or at least how long it took to do so (assuming this is real data and not just a marketing smokescreen).

Of course, they didn't have the pair I was looking for, so I didn't do it. I almost purchased a similar paid instead, but I stuck to my guns.

I imagine that I am not alone and that this will at least drive a one-time spike in revenue, which every company needs this year! Especially a company like Zappos, since in many cases the purchase of "another" pair of shoes is totally discretionary.

Brilliant if you ask me. I wonder what the ROI is on this simple Google Maps mashup? I an sure they can calculate the return at least from people that click through to the product pages from the map and buy. They probably wouldn't be able to track me from it, though, since I opened another tab and went directly to to (try to) find my specific pair of shoes.


James Roche

There's also the "Hi Mom" factor, where, potentially, customers place orders to see their obscure city light up on the map.

I was recently suffering through an NPR pledge drive where the MC gave away details of the 30-second broadcast delay on their station, so that callers could hear the phone ring when they call in for a pledge. Similarly, the idea was that callers would ring the phones to make a pledge just to be 'heard' on the radio. There's nothing identifiable about a phone ringing, so this likely had little impact on folks.

If I lived in the middle of Oklahoma, or another unfashionable place, it would be neat to see a pin that I knew was mine. In a metro area, I don't think it would be as satisfying to see a +1 to the stats that are already there. Much like just another ring in a roomful of NPR pledge phones, there's nothing personally identifiable about seeing your purchase add to an already high number of orders from your area.



I looked at the map, and saw a dozen styles of shoes I would've never looked at on their site. I didn't buy anything, but I can definitely see the impulse buy scenario, as well as James' "hi mom" aspect.


I think this map is a stroke of Web 2.0 marketing genius. My guess is that doing the programming and servicing the extra hits costs less than a couple of days of buying the shoes keyword from Google. Zappo's is a very well-run company, and here's another example.

Bill S

A quick comment to Erik about user tracking:

Most people don't realize this, but they know exactly how you came upon the site, even if you used another tab. I work for a major user-based website, and we can track down every click any users made and every page they've seen along with a lot of scrolling and mouse movements. If you log in a month from now they'll recognize you back, and if you use a different browser, clear your browser cache/cookies, or even use a computer from the same house (on a router) they'll have a "highly-probable" continuation. This data's often shared across sites, too-- check some privacy statements. And of course, if you log in at any point, of course they know who you are and can track back and attribute all your previous traffic to your username.

So my guess is that Zappos can give you a to-the-penny calculation of how much revenue this map's generated as far as displayed/clicked ads (if they have any), click-through rate to the site, and eventual sales. Depending on how they're linked to, they can also see your inbound referral, so they know which of their users came from the freakonomics blog, which may indicate a higher-value customer than someone linked from In all, you give out a tremendous amount of data with your casual web-use, and of course there are people on the other end of that recording every last bit of it.



Never heard of zappos until this article. For what its worth.