Case study: The single and different size shoes test programme

Zappos fielded a call from a customer who had received the wrong size shoes. The shoes that the customer ordered were adult-sized cross-trainers that had a hook and loop closure instead of traditional shoelaces.

The customer was frustrated, as the shoes were for their grandson who has autism and was unable to tie his own shoelaces. What Zappos found, though, by immersing themselves, was that there was a huge gap when it came to footwear that met all types of special requirements and disabilities.

To meet this need, Zappos decided to give customers the ability to purchase a single shoe or make their own custom pair by purchasing two shoes of different sizes.

They worked closely with suppliers and shared what they learnt about customer needs, so they could develop products that worked for more and more people. Today Zappos offers a broad assortment of easy-on/off shoes, sensory-friendly clothing, reversible shirts and pants, clothing with magnetic fasteners, post-surgical clothing, diabetic shoes, and more.

How did Zappos get there? Not in one big-bang. But in tens of small increments.

After just a few years, the programme has gone from curating a small number of items that were already available on the website, to introducing many more brands, styles, sizes, and colours. What they offer now is a range, together in one place, to connect people with products that make their life easier.

There are thousands of shoe retailers, all of whom have a view of the world and their customers as Zappos do. How did Zappos make such an impact?