The retailer last week kicked off the second year of its Run-on-One program, which is a 30-day program that aims to help runners stay committed to their 2019 running goals. It also recently began giving runners 30 days to try out their running shoes.

Runners are a loyal lot, which helps explain how a number of local running store continue to thrive offline. Running stores often serve as hubs of running-related activity where consumers can ensure they find the proper fit, talk running with store associates, join a running group and trade tips and advice about races.

Now Amazon.com Inc.-owned Zappos wants to get in on that action by re-creating those types of relationships online by establishing Zappos as a go-to place runners can turn to for advice, as well as shoes and accessories online.

One reason running stores work offline is because they're authentic. Our idea is to replicate that authenticity and realness offline.
Joe Grusman
general manager of e-commerce marketing, Zappos

That’s why the retailer last week kicked off the second year of its Run-on-One program, which is a 30-day program that aims to help runners stay committed to their 2019 running goals by having Zappos customer service staff members call and provide words of encouragement to shoppers who sign up for the program to keep members on task. The program, which launched last year with 100 consumers, grew out of Zappos’ data analysis and consumer surveys that sought to understand what motivates consumers who buy running shoes in January to keep running and what hinders their ability to keep exercising, says Joe Grusman, the retailer’s general manager of e-commerce marketing.

“We wanted to know what were those consumers’ view of running? What drives them?” he says.

A few reasons stood out. Some turned to running for piece of mind, others for exercise, while a large segment turned to running for community. However, the retailer found that most shoppers stopped running after six to eight weeks. The most common reason was a lack of time and second-most common was lack of motivation.

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“Lack of time is hard for us to deal with,” Grusman says. “But we figured we could help with motivation.”

Given that Zappos is known for its customer service, the retailer developed a free program that would draw on its customer service team to call participants every day during the program, or at their preferred cadence. The retailer used its Zappos Running social media handles to post about the program. And, because it only had about 1,500 followers at the time, it also paid to promote the program in the feeds of other consumers who didn’t follow Zappos Running.

While the initial program was small, roughly 40% of participants kept running for the full 30 days, including one woman who ran a marathon later in the year. This year, Zappos is growing the program to 500 participants. Next year, it hopes to grow it to 1,500 and, over the next few years, it plans to grow membership to around 5,000 consumers. The idea is to develop a running community around the Zappos brand.

“It’s a program wrapped up in a marketing campaign,” Grusman says. However, he’s quick to note that rather than use the program to collect data on participants, the retailer is looking to build long-term relationships with consumers. To gauge the success of those efforts, it is looking to metrics such as members’ repeat visit rates.

Beyond the motivational program, Zappos recently launched a 30-day guarantee that enables runners to return running shoes within 30 days of purchase, even if they’ve been worn. The idea is to find a way for the online retailer to compete with running stores that often feature associates trained in helping shoppers find an ideal fit regardless of whether they over-pronate or under-pronate, he says.

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“We’re testing new value propositions for customers to try to understand what resonates,” Grusman says. “We want to make sure that whatever we do feels authentic. One reason running stores work offline is because they’re authentic. Our idea is to replicate that authenticity and realness offline.”

Zappos is owned by Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000.

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