Stepping out in style

A course on Retail and Merchandising now has to include a study of a purely online retailer, and I chose to look more closely at fashion retailer Zappos as an interesting example for my recent series of lectures. This wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon started out as an online shoe retailer, and quickly gained traction with the young set. The company has a reputation for extraordinary customer service, going ‘above and beyond’ in an area where expectations are generally low, and so are able to maintain a loyal customer base. But what is their real USP?

Image © ZAPPOS

From early days in the noughties, Zappos recognised the value of social media in building strong customer relationships. CEO Tony Hsieh regularly tweets – and not just about the business – and encourages all his employees to do the same. The effect has been to retain customers who feel they are part of the Zappos family, with genuine involvement and value, and with less of the prevailing feeling of being just a ‘number’ and the product of some clever algorithms. The long-term trick for Zappos will be in finding a good balance between keeping in touch and becoming intrusive, but for the younger generation, that day still seems to be a long way off.

Dig deeper –

Challenges old and new
Global giants
Offline and Online
Seismic changes ahead
Then and now – what has changed?