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Zappos vs. the life of the others

June 25th, 2008 | by Klaus Holzapfel |

ZapposIt is hard to pick a marketing bestseller these days that doesn’t have a chapter about Zappos in it. Of course the web is plastered with the Zappos story as well. I’ll save you from republishing the story of “the retailer that considers itself a service company” for the 115th time.

My point is: What is wrong with the rest of the world? Don’t you get it? Why don’t you give all these marketing gurus something to write about and create something down that alley by yourself?
Of course there is no point in completely copying Zappos philosophy and values one on one. But how about some “take the best and leave the rest”?

To understand the magnitude on how different Zappos really is you might want to look at their environment. We all know most of their competitors are pretty old school – really old school, not like in the movie;-).

But how about their vendors? These are the guys that interact with the buyers at Zappos on a daily base. I happen to have a bit of inside information that I am glad to share with you.

Take a look at Zappos 10 core values and how they compare to the “classic” footwear companies (of course there are exceptions – you know who you are):

Zappos: Deliver WOW through service
Footwear industry: “Why would we want to do that? We’d actually have to listen to people telling us how nice we are? What a total waste of time!”

Zappos: Embrace and drive change
Footwear industry: “Change? As in driving sales up, correct? Getting rid of all our competitors is the one and only change we need!”

Zappos: Create fun and a little weirdness
Footwear industry: “The only one weird in here is me. I am the boss. I own weirdness. Don’t you dare calling me a weirdo! Our shoes are a lot of fun, though. You hear me? A LOT OF FUN! They will make you really happy – no matter how badly they hurt.”

Zappos: Be adventurous, creative and open minded
Footwear industry: “We have designers for that. You are not a designer. Bugger off!”

Zappos: Pursue growth and learning
Footwear industry: “Absolutely not. At the end you’ll know more than I do and will become a threat to me. And you’ll ask for more money. Exactly what I don’t need. Stay dumb and you’ll keep your job!”

Zappos: Build open and honest relationships with communication
Footwear industry: “How much did we sell this week? No not good enough. We must sell more more more. I don’t care how. I am going to call your boss since you are not cooperating. And yes: I WILL CONTINUE TO WRITE MY EMAILS IN CAPITAL LETTERS SO YOU GET IT!!! What was your name again?”

Zappos: Build Positive team and family spirit
Footwear industry – quote from a customer service manager: “I hate these people year around. Why would I hang with them at a Christmas party? You’ve got to be kidding me!”

Zappos: Do more with less
Footwear industry: “What do you mean? Are you talking about doing less print ads? But we have always done those? No, we DO NOT engage in non-traditional forms of marketing. We could loose everything! Online community? Leave me alone with crap. Who is going to pay for all of this? Of course I’d delete all negative comments immediately and ban those morons from my site.”

Zappos: Be passionate and determined
Footwear industry: “You missed your sales goal by $500. Too bad. That saves me paying you a bonus. Don’t you dare to be discouraged. You were to change your job pretty soon anyway. Nobody stays in their job forever. My motivational speech for today is over. I did it good!”

Zappos: Be humble
Footwear industry: “My >>>insert random male body part here <<< is bigger than yours. Therefore I am going to bully you and there is nothing you can do about it. Or you’re dead!”

+++++++++++End of list+++++++++++++++

There you have it. Yes I am overstating a little but if you talk to any designer, sales rep, divisional manager or customer service person you won’t hear a lot of dissent with the stated above. Most VP’s will sign off on that as well. It is the world they live in.

My question to Zappos would be:
I know you want to venture out into other areas of retail. But how about taking a little closer look at your vendors and take one of the following approaches:

Team up with them and change them from the inside out.
Set up your own production entity and/or buy some brands or develop your own. You got the hard part down: Sales & brand building. Developing the sourcing and hiring some designers is a piece of cake compared to that.

The footwear industry will eventually change.  I think here is an opportunity to stretch the Zappos story a little further. Since no one else is doing it;-)

Note:
In case you think Zappos is only faking it, think twice. They are for real. It starts with Tony Hsieh, their CEO. I case you think he is just another guy trying to play it nice I would suggest to listen to Rob McNealy’s podcast interview with him. You hear for yourself if this guy is humble or not.

This post was inspired by the amazing slide show that Tara Hunt of Citizen Agency put together. Thanks very much for sharing this!

  1. One Response to “Zappos vs. the life of the others”

  2. By Rob McNealy on Jun 25, 2008 | Reply

    Great article. I wish other companies would follow suit and focus on developing loyalty and culture both in and out of their company.

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