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Zappos Is Piloting a Personal Shopping Service on Instagram With #nextootd

Zappos is the latest in a string of companies trying to monetize Instagram.

Most of you will have already heard of the hashtag #ootd. For those who haven’t, this is the epitome of the #selfie phenomenon. “Outfit of the day” as it stands for, has over 23 million posts attached to it on Instagram.

That’s 23 million images associated with what people are wearing, said Will Young, director of Zappos Labs, during SXSW last week. (Zappos Labs is the San Francisco-based experimentation and innovation arm of e-commerce site Zappos.) "We looked at [those figures] and asked as a retailer how do we be a part of that?"

The answer? His team recently launched a pilot project on the platform called "Next OOTD." Very simply, followers are invited to post a selfie along with the hashtag #nextootd. Those who do will receive a personalized shopping recommendation based on their Instagram from Zappos in return.

Zappos is of course a company that prides itself, and has become known, for customer service. (Its longest ever phone call was nine and a half hours -- and celebrated for that fact, Young revealed.) He said the company is constantly trying to think of lots of different ways to take that service to the next level.

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At the moment this project is entirely manual -- there’s one person doing it who doesn’t even work weekends -- so the potential to scale isn’t really there, he admitted, but that’s not to say it won’t be down the line.

“Personal shopping via Instagram...that could be the future of our business,” he argued -- and perhaps rightly so given the buzz around social shopping at present. “It could have a 50 person team manning it and making personalized shopping recommendations.”

To his own strategy, he added: “I heard Sarah Friar, CFO of Square, speak recently, and she said, ‘Think big but start small.’ That’s kind of how we approach things at Zappos Labs.”

This piece originally ran on Fashion and Mash and was re-posted with the author's permission.