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What Does Sell, Really?

Zappos_logo2 of course is the legendary online retailer. It's probably most famous for selling shoes and its rabid commitment to customer service. It has since gone on to sell many items, such as clothing, accessories, and bags.'s legend grew during a time when buying online was still quite a hassle. Who hasn't felt a twinge of uncertainty over buying something (especially clothing) online knowing that if you didn't like what you thought you bought, the hassle of returning it was far greater than stopping by a local store (a fact that many bricks and mortar retailers have leveraged in their ecommerce strategies).

You know the rest: How inserted a postage paid return envelope and a package in your shipment in case you didn't like it. How they encouraged people to buy it, try it and return it. How their customer service reps are encouraged not to follow call scripts, and how they have no time limits on their customer interactions. How they train their call center reps for weeks before turning them loose to spread joy. How they advertise free ground shipping, but most orders get shipped overnight...further surprising their customers with unexpected value.

So what is selling, really? What is their value proposition? It's customer joy, of course. They are selling a surprising, "wow" kind of emotional jolt. Let's be honest, it feels good to be treated extraordinarily. It's awesome to get someone on the other end of the phone who wants to help you, no matter how long it takes.

Some may counsel to stay focused, to stay in their retail niche. But customer joy is a powerful, extensible kind of value proposition. You can think of many industry niche scenarios where core value could improve things dramatically.

They are already monetizing their unique expertise and passion for customer joy by inviting other companies in to receive training on their model (is the next Disney Institute in this regard?). Their CEO has said, perhaps in jest - perhaps not, that he wouldn't rule out a airline someday.

Hmmm...An airline that brings customer joy. Sign me up.

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Reader Comments (1)

I am a recurring Zappo's customer as well. If you want value in airline service, please go to www. and check out the airfares for direct to NYC LaGuardia (LGA). Additionally, AirTran service directly from Charleston (CRW) to Orlando (MCO) starts June 25, 2009 The NYC flights are $147 roundtrip (Expedia) and the Orlando flights are $44 each way on Just remember to wear your Keen Newport sandals purchased from Zappo's on you trip because they cost more than your NYC flight.
May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

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