Interview with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh


NEW ERA OF ZAPPOS HAS BEGUN I’m sure you have heard of Zappos, and even bought a pair or two of shoes in the past years from this footwear store – after all Zappos has been the online store of offering shoes since 1999. I actually think my first ever online purchase was made at Zappos.com. Now Zappos is so much more than shoes – they offer a variety of products from designer clothing to pots and pans. Online shopping has changed a lot in the past 9 years. Zappos is showing an example of how to embrace social media sites and how to gain a new wave of loyal customers – and not just by advertising, but by being a part of the community. While other companies are just (some gently, some more aggressively) contacting bloggers with PR pitches and free samples of products, Zappos isn’t just trying to invade Blogosphere by giving freebies to bloggers – Zappos is part of the blogging and twittering online community and they rather give freebies for Jane Smiths (their customers), than editors and bloggers. (Hey, that sounds like what I’m doing!) Zappos’ key component for success has always been the superb customer service – and now Zappos is even kicking it up a notch. Lately this online shopping destination has really stirred the pot by controversially using good old TV as an advertising media and starting a Twitteraffair with thousands of customers in one of the hottest social media sites of today. I had an opportunity to talk to Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, about the Zappos brand, company culture and what’s the real deal behind launching the TV ad and starting to be very involved at Twitter this past month. Zappos is also involving bloggers like you and me for their online success story – read how!



KATJA: Your TV ad and twittering have really gotten some online media attention in the past few weeks. Let’s first talk about the TV ad, it was criticized as old fashioned by business journalist Sarah Lacy this past Sunday.  What was your main purpose to do the TV ad? Was it to support the existing brand, or gain more customers? TONY: It’s a little bit of both, but more to raise awareness of Zappos. We’ve grown primarily through repeat customers and word of mouth and found that a lot of people still have not heard of Zappos (unless they had a friend that shopped at Zappos). We actually spend most of our paid advertising dollars online and we’ve found that when done together, TV helps improve the effectiveness of our online efforts. KATJA: That makes sense, the TV ad is just a very visible element for the public eye at the moment. Another very visible move has been your personal and Zappos employees’ involvement on Twitter. Was it planned to do the TV campaign at the same time as start being more active at social media sites? TONY: It was coincidental that we started embracing Twitter more at the same time our TV ads came out. We don’t really think of what we do on our blogs or on twitter as a marketing campaign… They are simply great ways of allowing people outside of Zappos to get a glimpse of what our lives are like and what our culture is like behind the scenes. The main reason we are embracing Twitter is simply because we actually enjoy twittering and are passionate about it. KATJA: So other companies make marketing campaigns and you are simply having fun with your employees. Your inner marketing is just amazing, and very admirable. Zappos’ employees seem to be the happiest worker bees I’ve ever met. How would you say the company culture you have at Zappos differentiates from most of corporate America? TONY: Our number one priority as a company is our company culture. We believe that in the long run, your culture and your brand are just two sides of the same coin. We believe that if we get the culture right, a lot of the other stuff, such as great customer service, will happen on its own! You can get a sense of it by visiting our blogs. KATJA: The blogs offer so much for than just product reviews – your unique company culture shines through from the employee blogs. Now, tell me about other social media sites. You personally and almost 200 other Zappos employees are also active at Twitter. Which other ways of social media is Zappos using at the moment? TONY: We also have a presence at Facebook and MySpace, but are most active on Twitter. KATJA: Has utilizing social media and web 2.0 been already successful or is it too early to tell? TONY: We just think Twitter is a great way to connect more deeply and personally with our customers. It’s also been great seeing all the employees engaged in Twitter. We’re having fun with Twitter and would do it even if there was zero marketing benefit. KATJA: How about us bloggers, how are you involving us bloggers into your big happy Zappos family? TONY: Many of our employees are very active bloggers and we also engage bloggers by offering an affiliate program. Our top affiliates are very successful. You can sign up for our affiliate program through Commission Junction. KATJA: That’s great, so could I or any other mommy blogger join your affiliate program, or is it geared towards a specific target group? TONY: It’s not geared towards any specific market, everybody is welcome to join our affiliate program. KATJA: Yeah, it makes sense, we all love shoes! One more question Tony; many of my readers come from overseas and I’m sure they would like to know what are your international plans. Are you planning on starting to ship internationally at some point? You ship only to the US & Canada currently, correct? TONY: Yes, we ship to the US and Canada and we don’t have any immediate plans to ship internationally. KATJA: Thank you so much for your time and answering all my questions, I really appreciate it. TONY: Sure, thanks! READ MORE: Beginner’s Quick Start Guide and Tutorial to Using Twitter by Tony Hsieh

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