service.” In fact, Zappos describesitself as a service company that hap-pens to sell shoes and other prod-ucts. This value is reflected in suchniceties as a 365-day return policy with free shipping both ways, 24/7customer phone lines, live onlinehelp, and customer product ratings— none of which is all that weird.But things do become, if not weirder, then at least different, whenseen from the perspective of AaronMagness, Zappos’ director of busi-ness development and brand mar-keting. He told me, “I read abouthow Zappos is focused on customerservice. It isn’t. It’s focused on com-pany culture, which leads to cus-
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pany culture — has provided a surepath to business success.Zappos began selling shoes andother products online in 1999, be-came profitable four years later (thebeginning of a still-unbroken run of annual earnings gains) and reachedmore than US$1 billion in sales by 2009. That was a big year for Zap-pos in other ways as well. The com-pany was rewarded with
’s Customer Service Champdesignation, inclusion on
’slist of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, and an A+ rating by theBetter Business Bureau. Also in2009, Amazon purchased Zapposfor 10 million Amazon shares, worth almost $928 million at thetime. Zappos’ employees divvied up$40 million in cash and restrictedstock and were given assurances thatthe Zappos management would re-main in place. At the top of the list of Zappos’values is “Deliver WOW through
The thriving Internet shoe retailer has made itsname and a lot of money by being eccentric.
ne clue that something a lit-tle weird is happening atZappos can be found nearthe bottom of the home page of thecompany’s website, where you’ll findlists with headings such as “Shop withUs”and“CustomerService,”be-neath pictures of Anne Klein, Rock-port, and Nike footwear; New Bal-ance shirts; and Tommy Bahamashorts. Buried in one list is a link ad-vising, “Don’t ever click here.” I did,of course, and the link opened a YouTube video of the Muppet rock band performing, as lead singerBeaker lip-syncs, “Never gonna giveyou up. Never gonna let you down.”It is a not-so-subtle message to Zap-pos’ customers and perhaps to itsemployees as well. Another link opened a com-pany-produced video in which em-ployeestalkabouttheirfavoriteZap-pos values — there are 10 values intotal — with the same convictionand enthusiasm that the Muppetband brings to its musical antics. Aclearwinner:“Createfunandalit-tle weirdness.” Weirdness may not be the firstthing that comes to mind when youthink of shoe retailing, but thenagain neither are things like innova-tion, massive growth, or a large pay-off from a huge acquisition. All of those apply to Zappos, however, where a little weirdness — combined with faith that putting extraordinary effort into building a desirable com-
I m a g e s c o u r t e s y o f Z a p p o s
Corporate communications, Zappos-style.