Zappos tests personal shoppers

Zappos, the online retailer owned by Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), is testing out a new customer service tool to help shoppers find any product they need, whether or not they sell it.

The personal shopping assistant program, called Ask Zappos, takes requests from customers who send an image of their desired product. The assistant then tracks down the item, even if Zappos doesn't carry it, reported Inc.

Customers can send images to a personal shopper at Ask Zappos by posting a picture to Instagram—#AskZappos—or attaching it to a text message. The shopping assistant then uses the image to look up the product and report to customers with shopping links to the item and similar alternatives.

Zappos has been testing the service since June but started promoting it on its mobile homepage last week.

The retailer is known for its customer service and has always looked for new ways to reach shoppers through digital and social mediums with the help of a dedicated research and development team known as Zappos Labs. 

"It's really easy to create those amazing experiences on the phone, but that's really hard to do online," Zappos Labs Director Will Young told CNET. Ask Zappos is the company's way of extending customer service to digital channels.

The team plans to add image recognition to the process in the future, but the necessary algorithm is difficult to perfect because of the need to detect specific textures or clothing logos.

Zappos has been on the forefront of using online and social platforms in all aspects of business. The retailer recently announced it would give up traditional job listings and rely on social media to recruit new employees.

Thus far, there have not been a lot of requests for Ask Zappos' services, but personal shoppers have already delivered responses the same day as requested and offered suggestions via links to competitors' merchandise to unsatisfied customers.

"It's not just wow the customer and give them a good experience," Adam Goldstein, senior product manager, Zappos, told CNET. "What's the cherry on top? That is hard to do online because it's so personal."

For more:
-See this Inc. article
-See this CNET article

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