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Zappos Talks Trends, Mood of the Footwear Market at FN Wellness Forum

Flavors for footwear this fall are casual, varied and inspired by consumers’ demand for an overall feeling of wellness, according to Zappos. And to reflect that, the brand’s fall trends cater to the outdoorsy, with coziness throughout.

At the Beauty Inc. + FN Wellness Forum held last week, FN senior editor Nikara Johns sat down with Lindsay Ehrlich, director of women’s fashion at Zappos.com, to discuss and distill existing and upcoming trends.

Johns said that for the past 18 months, Zappos has been “on the retail frontline” in footwear. Ehrlich explained that when COVID-19 hit, the brand “saw a huge change in terms of how our consumer was shopping with us. They didn’t completely stop shopping, but they did pivot into different types of trends and different types of categories that they were purchasing.”

Those trending categories are within the wellness realm of hiking, running and hybrid styles that promote a feeling of comfort at home. “It’s a bit of everything,” Ehrlich said. “We believe that, in general, running has a lot to do with it. Everybody is going outside, wanting to get some fresh air, away from the monotony of being at home.” Ehrlich emphasized that hiking has been one of the major growth categories for Zappos during the pandemic.

And these trends, indeed, have impacted the demand for specific footwear styles at large: In the performance space, there’s been a significant uptick in athletic brands such as Hoka One One, as well as fashion-inspired sneakers, coupled with a desire to transition from “fashion to more-casual, slip-on get out the door” footwear styles.

Other “casual winners” throughout include Crocs, which have popularized among the health-care industry, and, interestingly, ’90s footwear trends (i.e. Vans or retro lifestyle sneakers).

When asked about the popularity of Crocs, Erlich said that “Crocs is such a great brand partner with us. I don’t think it’s just women-specific. I really think they align with Zappos on our overall brand values with inclusivity, and there’s a Croc for everyone now,” as shoppers can now personalize and customize the shoe.

Erhlich added that through COVID-19, Zappos saw an influx of new customers shopping at Zappos — and the brand strategically responded to some “great winds” in the younger demographics, without turning away from its core customer.

“We feel that we’ve been able to get some new customers into our total ecosystem, as well through this pivot into more wellness products,” Erhlich told FN.

To market said products within the wellness space, Zappos is taking a different approach to communicating with its customers. “As the younger consumers, especially Gen Z, come on board, they care about different things. More value and purpose-driven brands,” Ehrlich said.

“We’re absolutely pivoting the way that we speak to that consumer and making sure that we have different campaigns that really speak to those different generations through ‘Everybody Does Good,’ and ‘Everybody Moves,’ and different types of campaigns to make sure that we’re including a diverse range of consumers and showcasing those influencers as well to our new customers.”

But for Zappos, running, hiking and lifestyle categories have always been in-demand — and so it came as a surprise how quickly consumers jumped back into the fashion category. As Johns put it, “Heels are making a comeback.”

“We weren’t quite ready for how quickly she was going to be ready to be out and about, but we’ve been really excited to see the success there,” Erhlich said, emphasizing, though, that comfort remains a priority for shoppers.

“Brands are being smarter about the technologies that they’re including into some of the footwear brands as well, and so you can still wear heels, but there are some additional comfort features. At the end of the day, we have been stuck inside, we have been so used to comfort in general, and I think that’s not going anywhere. We’re still going to care about being comfortable. But also, we want to refresh our wardrobes — and we want to get back out there.”

As far as the uptick in footwear for hiking, running and slippers — Zappos feels these are “trends that are here to stay,” adding that the “newbies” in the hiking category may very well become enthusiasts. Erhlich said that core, evergreen and seasonless styles are a big part of increased selection on the site, with less emphasis on fast fashion.

A big part of its fall lineup, too, is increased attention to women’s apparel, and “making sure that we’re adding to our selection — and a more-inclusive selection as well — across different brands, categories and sizes,” alongside experiential, curated assortments from its Style Room, Denim Shop or Cozy Shop, which are important and relevant to its consumers.

And internally, on the wellness front, Ehrlich said that “Zappos is all about the ‘wow,’ and that’s definitely important to us for our employees. As you know, we’ve always had extras and these amazing value props for our employees. We pivoted quickly to virtual classes from campus classes in terms of yoga, just fitness in general.”

Aside from a slew of surprises and delights for its employees, the brand also especially celebrates holidays and touches base every now and then — in any way Zappos can “to virtually reach them.”

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