During our visit of the CES in Las Vegas, we visited the Zappos Pop-up Shop, often dubbed the “shop of the future”.

It’s more of a prototype, which, having opened in November 2014, should close pretty soon this January 2015 to analyze its own data and see how to move forward.

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Visiting is was definitely an experience, as the combination of online and offline retail features with high technology made our eyes glitter and wonder. As the founder of ShopWithMe Jonathan Jenkins, who designed the prototype says, “retailers all try to go online, while e-tailers all try to do something in the brick and mortar space”.

The whole experience is by the way part of the $350m investment from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to revitalize the downtown area.

Let’s wrap it up in a classic like/don’t like scheme.

What we like about the Zappos Pop-up Shop: Virtual reality, e-cart, and a very geek experience

When entering the shop itself, the first thing you see is an interesting hybrid showcase of TV screens and printed material, the whole thing creating what might be the shopper of the future, half-virtual, half-physical.

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The technological immersion you have is attractive for the geeks we all became these last few years. With a smartphone in hand and the presence of a lot of kiosks, you can get a lot of information about any product you scan, from the different sizes, colors, other models. In case you need someone to assist you, a kiosk with an in-built camera will forward what you look like to a nearby assistant.

One room in particular offer an amazing, immersive experience with augmented reality. At first glance, it looks like a very basic room with shelves and a kiosk in the middle of the room. If you pick a shoe and scan it to get more info, then, you embark in what could be a cut-scene from the next Star Wars (on Oculus).

Once the “travel” part is done, you can browse a set of virtual shelves by hand thanks to Kinect sensors. The whole thing is really amazing, with a mapping of all the walls and an audio experience as well.

The e-cart is the last thing we appreciated. Rather than having to take with you all the stuff you’d like to try and/or buy, a simple scan and a tap puts it in your virtual cart, the same way you would do online. Convenient, although the check-out requires you oddly to log-in as if you were online, which doesn’t end the customer journey with a seamless experience.

What we didn’t like about the Zappos Pop-up Shop: IKEA-like journey, Compulsory app, no touch & feel experience

Beyond the hype of technological gadgetry and immersive experience, a few things really “disconnected” the user from the supposedly seamless experience.

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The first one, which is in my opinion a big “no go”, is the necessity to download an app to enjoy the experience.

Between changing Appstore terms and conditions, forgotten password, unreliable network, and the time spent to download (or simply one more app to give tons of personal data first), I don’t find this part of the experience to add anything.

It will block many visitors for sure, whatever the quality of the app. I guess there might have been better ways to manage the smartphone experience, from QR codes to web apps which would not require a login before showing its actual value for the customer.

The second drawback is the IKEA style journey in the shop. Zappos is mostly about shoes, and that’s what people buy most easily as it fits to most styles, it’s a cheap buy (compared to a pair of jeans or even more pricey items), and many consumers have more than necessary just because it has a higher life span than a shirt, say.

The customer path designed in the Zappos Pop-up shop puts the shoes in the back rows, and to navigate there, a user must find its way through a maze of rooms and digitally heavy experiences, which, again, tends to distract without adding a true value.

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Last but not least, if the zero inventory is the dream of retailers, it’s not the one of customers. How curious is that to be able to see a unique model of a garment or a pair of shoes, without being able to browse both different sizes and colors? The absence of fitting rooms is a consequence, or a correlation, of this choice, when it’s probably why consumers do spend more time and get closer to the purchase when they shop IRL.

You can’t visit anymore this prototype… but given the culture of innovation of Zappos, there’s a good chance you can visit another one with us during the CES 2016 in Las Vegas : ).