September 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

Zappos looks outside for personalization technology

Zappos.com is now providing individual product recommendations based on shoppers’ past purchasing and browsing habits.

Zappos.com is now providing individual product recommendations based on shoppers’ past purchasing and browsing habits. The web-only footwear and apparel retailer turned to a third-party provider in order to deliver more relevant content throughout the web site, says Brian Kalma, director of user experience and web strategy. “Historically it’s been challenging to do that on our own,” he says.

Earlier this year Zappos considered developing personalization technology in-house, but didn’t feel the company possessed the necessary expertise, Kalma says. Next came a review of all the providers in the marketplace. “We found out very quickly it’s hard to differentiate from one to another,” he says. “They all talked about how strong their algorithms are.”

But with the technology being roughly equal, Zappos chose ChoiceStream Inc. because the provider was willing to commit to a long-term development arrangement that will showcase Zappos’ use of the personalization technology, Kalma says.

The ChoiceStream RealRelevance personalization application is expected to provide Zappos.com customers with product recommendations built on their individual tastes and shopping habits. Product recommendations designed for individual shoppers now appear on Zappos’ online beta site, known better as Zeta.

As retailing muddles through the recession, personalization tools can help web retailers get closer to shoppers, says Steve Johnson, founder and CEO of ChoiceStream. “Retailers are looking for whatever they can do to make their online store more relevant to shoppers,” he says, “and consumers are beginning to expect personalization.”

Zappos.com is No. 27 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Amazon announced plans to acquire Zappos.com in July for $847 million.

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