How Zappos Uses Tech and Operations to be Successful

A Business Operations and Technology Best Practice

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Zappos was one of the earliest adopters of social media as a means to market their company. They have used social media such as Twitter and Youtube not just to attract new customers but to use the social platform for “word of mouth” marketing. Hence, it isn’t just that Zappos was an early adopter of social media; it is how they use social media that is also different. Where other companies are using Facebook pages to post coupons and promotions, Zappos is using these types of social media platforms to gather comments from customers and employees.

Customers tweet their delight about being Zappos buyers, and employees tweet or blog about their life at Zappos, inside and outside the company.  The way that social media is used is truly social.  Since social is one of three factors used by consumers to make purchase decisions, Zappos has managed to disrupt this process by inserting themselves into the mix with true stories from customers and employees.  This level of transparency is seldom seen.

The other, and very much related marketing strategy that Zappos has used effectively is segmentation: they have purposely chosen to target e-commerce customers and have never deviated from this strategy.  Early on, Zappos recognized that our world is becoming increasingly digital, and capitalized on this by remaining loyal to their e-commerce customers exclusively. There has never been a brick and mortar business model at Zappos: they have truly been able to accomplish more with less by leveraging their website for e-commerce and supplementing this type of purchase process with a one of a kind customer service staff.

Zappos has outperformed most companies not only in their own competitive field but by any standard against other companies that have attempted to embrace the increasingly digital means to attract and retain customers.

From a technological perspective, Zappos has been at the cutting edge of innovation since the beginning.

  Zappos’ recognition that we are increasingly becoming a digital world allowed the company to create a technology to sell their products in a way that mirrored the way consumer lifestyles were evolving.

The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh was a pioneer in the area of CEOs using social media to both gather customer feedback, as well as broadcast the company’s commitment to customer service as the top company priority. His perspective is that business is a function of people connecting with other people and that is exactly what he has been able to accomplish by using Twitter to promote the service excellence that his company provides.  Hsieh also encourages his employees to actively participate on Facebook to share their experiences about working at Zappos. The employee posts are personal, which in turn encourages Zappos customers to share equally personal posts about their experiences as customers. The dialogue is engaging and therefore relevant.

The digital and “customer first” culture that Zappos created and thrives by is now available as seminars through a unique profit center that Zappos has created called zapposinsights.com. Much like the Disney Institute and other successful companies’ approach to branding their own company culture as an educational forum, Zappos Insights is a one-stop shop for companies that want to short circuit the learning curve to great digital marketing and understanding how to successfully attract and retain customers through excellent customer service.

Here is Tony Hsieh speaking about customer service and how he has created a culture around this top priority to make Zappos the successful company that it is today.

Zappos, its culture and its leadership is a good best practice for companies that are in the midst of a transformation and are struggling with how to cement a visionary, enduring culture that can be embraced by employees, customers and vendors. Zappos is also a great start-up company best practice for how to get it right the first time and fast-track a growth trajectory.