How to Be Like Zappos in 3 Easy Steps

There was a time, not so long ago, when online shoppers would think of shoes, they would think of Zappos. Today, when online shoppers think of amazing customer service, they think of Zappos. There is a very simple reason for Zappos’ success in owning “customer service” in consumers’ minds, and that is branding.

Zappos has been the go-to example for small business social media marketing success for several years. People love a huge success story, particularly when they think they have a chance at emulating that success story, but even better, people love companies that stay true to their brand promise.

To understand why Zappos has been so successful in building its business via social media marketing, you need to first understand the fundamental steps of branding:

1. Consistency

You must consistently communicate your brand image and message in every online and offline interaction or else consumers will become confused. They won’t know what your brand promises and they won’t be able to develop the necessary expectations for it that make them become emotionally involved in the brand, creating trust and brand loyalty. Throughout Zappos’ successful rise, the company always remained 100 percent consistent with its brand promise of superior customer service.

2. Persistence

Brand building, like social media marketing, is a long-term marketing strategy that takes patience and commitment. Zappos didn’t grow to where it is today overnight. It had a solid brand promise and it refused to compromise that brand promise. In time, people believed that promise.

3. Restraint

It’s tempting to try to extend your brand and your social media activities too far, which can actually damage your brand by confusing consumers. Confused consumers will turn away from your brand in search of another that does meet their expectations in every brand interaction. Zappos always put its customers first through its focus on amazing customer service. For example, when Amazon wanted to purchase Zappos several years ago, Zappos declined the offer and the Zappos brand became even more trustworthy in consumers’ minds.

The lesson to learn from Zappos is this: Social media marketing success is easier to achieve than you think as long as you stay focused on the three steps of branding in all of your online conversations and activities. Zappos didn’t use some kind of secret method to achieve its success. Instead, it achieved success by clearly defining its brand promise and staying true to that promise. It just so happened that the tools of the social web enabled Zappos to demonstrate that promise across a wider audience than was possible a decade ago. Having that level of access to people is an opportunity small businesses shouldn’t miss.

As Zappos director of marketing Aaron Magness explains, “It’s extremely important for companies to engage with customers. Period. How they do that may change depending on the industry and customer base. We need to understand that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. are all just tools we can use to form personal connections. They should all be seen as extensions of actual conversation.”

Can your business achieve the same level of success as Zappos? There’s no guarantee, but if you follow in Zappos’ footsteps and define your brand promise to consumers, then consistently and persistently deliver on that brand promise again and again, you could. The first step is joining the online conversation across the social web as Zappos does with its various Twitter profiles, blogs, Facebook page, and more.

Now it’s your turn!

About Susan Gunelius

Susan Gunelius is president and CEO of KeySplash Creative, a marketing communications company. An industry veteran, she has written 10 books about business, marketing, branding, and social media, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Blogging All-in-One for Dummies, The Complete Idiot's Guide to LinkedIn, and Kick-Ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps. Susan owns an award-winning blog for businesswomen at She frequently speaks about marketing at events around the world and with television, radio, print, and online media. You can find her on Twitter at @susangunelius.
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Ranjit Pisharody
Ranjit Pisharody

Hey, I read an article which says that Zappos was running on a huge loss. Moreover, the board was really unhappy with the CEO's 'Social Experiments', which could not be converted to profits. So I feel there is a tweak needed in Zappos' strategy.

Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius

Julie, I completely agree with you on both counts - not just talking the talk but also walking the walk and reading Tony's book!

Julie Arnsdorf
Julie Arnsdorf

In Tony Hsieh's (Zappos CEO) book, Delivering Happiness, he also places a strong emphasis on personal contact with his customers. This included visitor tours of Zappos and personal interaction via the phone. Customer service reps were empowered to go out of their way to help and satisfy customers. Many organizations play lip service to customer service, claiming they are service oriented. But in actuality, it's only a word. In fact, it's a highly overused claim. Highly recommend Hsieh's book.


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