Zappos is Relationship Building to Connect with Its Audience

Brought to you by WBR Insights

Personalization is a powerful tool which can help ecommerce businesses provide their customers with a bespoke service and help forge long-lasting relationships which drive brand loyalty.

A massive 79 percent of consumers state they will only engage with an offer if they feel it has been personalized based on their previous interactions with the brand. 63 percent are likely to become annoyed and abandon a brand if they receive multiple generic contacts from them. In return for personalized offers or discounts, 63 percent of millennials, 58 percent of Gen Xers, and 46 percent of Baby Boomers are willing to share personal information with companies.

On the other side of the fence, 88 percent of marketers have seen measurable improvements by using personalization in their strategy - with over half noting a lift of more than ten percent.

Amazon-owned shoe and clothing brand Zappos is more than aware of this and is looking to build relationships with its customers using personalization.


Runners are one of the most discerning sub-groups of shoe buyers out there. On average, a distance runner will go through three pairs of sneakers every year and is always on the lookout for the latest new release. Runners tend to have more than one pair in their possession at once - rotating them for different distances, speeds, and terrain.

Another factor which is particularly relevant to runners is brand loyalty. This is a demographic that is highly likely to shop at a local, independent store where they can access not only the best running gear but also build relationships with associates with whom they can discuss techniques and fitness goals.

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"One reason running stores work offline is because they're authentic. Our idea is to replicate that authenticity and realness," said General Manager of Ecommerce Marketing for Zappos, Joe Grusman.

As a massive supplier of running gear, Zappos understands this need and has been looking for ways to recreate this local store feeling in the digital space. It's achieving this by creating an online hub where runners can purchase the latest equipment while also accessing advice and accessories and connecting with fellow running enthusiasts.


For the month of January in 2019, Zappos put its Run-on-One program into overdrive. To bring true personalization to the world of ecommerce, Zappos had its associates pick up the phone and call customers who signed up to the program. During the call, customers received words of encouragement while also being asked if there was anything they needed from Zappos to help them achieve their goals.

"It's a program wrapped up in a marketing campaign," Grusman says. "However, rather than use the program to collect data on participants, we are looking to build long-term relationships with consumers. To gauge the success of those efforts, we are looking to metrics such as members' repeat visit rates."

Roughly 40 percent of those who signed up kept running for the full 30 days of the challenge. Zappos has now set itself a target of 500 participants by the end of 2019, 1,500 in 2020, and up to 5,000 over the next few years. With most people giving up running within two months - either due to available time or motivation - the kind of personalized service being attempted by Zappos is aiming to keep those sneakers pounding the road for just a little longer.

Aside from the motivational assistance Zappos is providing through its online program, the ecommerce store is also offering a 30-day refund guarantee on sneakers - even if they've been worn. This is another great way of trying to replicate that local store feeling where customers would be able to get assistance to find the perfect fit.

Final Thoughts

The strategy is working. In recent research, Zappos was placed in the top ten companies for customer satisfaction. Compared to its parent company, Amazon - which focusses on making customer service as streamlined as possible - Zappos' exemplary customer satisfaction scores are credited to its focus on personalized service and its ability to build strong and genuine relationships with its audience.

"In one famous Zappos story, they sent the best man at a wedding a pair of shoes with expedited shipping free of charge after the original pair he ordered got misrouted in the mail, thus ensuring he didn't go barefoot to the celebration," reports Clyde. "In another legendary Zappos customer service tale, the team hand delivered a traveler a pair of shoes from a rival shoe store free of charge after the woman realized she had forgotten hers at home and was disappointed to find Zappos no longer sold them. After both episodes, Zappos had undoubtedly created a customer for life."

You can hear Zappos' General Manager of Ecommerce Marketing, Joe Grusman, speak at eTail Palm Springs 2020, taking place in February at the JW Marriott, Palm Springs, CA.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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