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Zappos Goes Offline to Meet Customers on Cross-Country Road Trip

The online retailer’s “Friends With Benefits” tour offers shopping, live music, food, pet adoptions, and more.

By Mitra Sorrells March 30, 2017, 7:15 AM EDT

Photo: Courtesy of Zappos

For the first time, Zappos is taking its show on the road with a yearlong “Friends With Benefits” tour to half a dozen cities around the United States. After beginning in Austin, Texas, in January, the online apparel and footwear retailer made its second stop in Nashville Friday through Sunday, creating a backyard party-style activation in a midtown parking lot.

“We don’t have the opportunities a lot of other brands have to meet and interact with their customers,” says Kristin Richmer, senior brand marketing manager at Zappos. “So we wanted to do two things—one to bring our brand to life … and secondly we wanted to give back to those customers who’ve been so loyal to us for the last 17 years.”

The activations are designed around the brand’s four pillars: retail, charity, culture, and community. A 40-foot shipping crate serves as an interactive pop-up store at the events. Guests are given iPads, and as they walk near products displayed in the space, Bluetooth beacons transmit the Zappos.com listing for those products onto the tablet. Guests can then read reviews and make purchases right on the device, opting to either take home the items at the event or have them shipped directly to their homes.

The tour includes two charitable components. Guests can donate gently used shoes and clothing that Zappos then sends to Soles4Souls, a nonprofit that helps people in need around the world. Each of the “Friends With Benefits” events also offers free pet adoptions. “Zappos is very passionate about pet adoption. We consider ourselves a customer service company, and we view this as one more service for our customers and non-customers alike,” Richmer says.

To celebrate culture in each of the host cities, the brand partners with local vendors to offer free food and beverages to guests, and entertainment is provided by local musicians. Outside the shipping crate pop-up shop, the space is set up like a backyard party, with picnic tables, inflatables, games, and artificial turf. Richmer says the tour will visit at least three more cities in the coming months with a final event in the brand’s hometown of Las Vegas at the end of the year.

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