Online retailer zappos uses social media to build customer

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Online Retailer Zappos Uses Social Media to Build Customer Relationships

Zappos was one of the first companies to incorporate social media into its business, and they have established themselves as a leader in its use. One reason this online retailer that sells clothing for women, children, and men, shoes, handbags, and accessories has experienced rapid growth is because they have made their corporate values a part of their social media activities. Many customers know that Zappos is a large business. At the same time, Zappos operates like a small business when it comes to how they treat their customers. In return, customers often feel they are dealing with a small business when they visit the Zappos Web site or purchase merchandise from the online retailer.

Steven Hill, Vice President of Merchandising, explains “Social media … is more about discovering our culture rather than our business.” In fact, the primary objective of the online retailer’s social media activities is to “deliver happiness.” Sometimes customers will leave fun comments about their experiences with the company. Zappos takes these comments—along with comments about problems customers experience and questions about products—very seriously. Responding to all comments is a major objective of the online retailer’s social media plan. For example, if a customer experienced a problem with an order or has a question about a product, the Zappos team ensures that these comments and questions are responded to honestly, authentically, and in a timely fashion.

Zappos does not maintain a specific strategy for marketing on social media, nor does it have a policy for responding to customers. As with any Zappos activity, responses to the customer’s concerns and comments are guided by the company’s core values, including creating “WOW” customer experiences and a culture characterized by fun. Product Manager Robert Richman explains, “Social media is a communication tool … and we want to be available to people wherever they’re at.” If customers are making comments about Zappos on Facebook, Zappos makes sure to have a response on Facebook so they can participate in the conversation. In fact, Kenshoo, a digital marketing specialist, has recognized Zappos’ Facebook activity for its effectiveness and how they engage customers using social media.

Rob Siefker, Director of the Customer Loyalty Team, emphasizes the importance of using Twitter. He states, “Most people went on Twitter as a way to interact with friends. Some companies went on there and solely focused on the business or service aspect. For us, part of service is being playful … it makes it much more human to the customer … it makes it much more personal.” Most companies that use social media use it for promotion rather than for truly interacting with customers. Mr. Siefker points out that customers “feel when they are being marketed to, and they know there is a reason for it.” However, Zappos strives to go beyond using social media simply for promotion purposes and selling merchandise. They want to forge a real connection with customers and describe themselves as a human company that encourages strong interactions between customers and the organization.

For Zappos, another objective of their social media plan is to cross-promote their activities across digital platforms. For example, if they receive or post a comment on Facebook, they will also share it on Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and Pinterest in order to reach other current or potential customers. While the company focuses mainly on current customers, Zappos also generates interest by encouraging customers to share promotions and purchases with friends. This activity often generates word-of-mouth marketing that brings in new customers. The current customers in this sense serve as brand advocates or brand enthusiasts. One campaign they used on Facebook was to ask people to like their page. It read, “Let’s be in a Like-Like Relationship.” Then they asked users to sign up for their email list. The order in which they made these requests gave people the impression that Zappos was indeed concerned about building relationships.

They also have exclusive content for people who opt to become fans. Once deemed a fan, people are able to see special offers, videos, and promotions and share comments about them. Finally, another major campaign Zappos launched was its engagement strategy called “Fan of the Week Contest,” where people were encouraged to take and post photos of themselves with Zappos products. Users voted on the best photo, and the one with the most votes won. Then Zappos posted the photo on their Web site for all to see.

For Zappos, social media is more than using the Internet to sell merchandise or increase profits, it’s about building customer relationships through human interaction. Overall, the objectives for Zappos marketing plan ensure that they are using social media to build relationships by bringing customers closer to the company.

Questions

  1. Describe some of the ways that Zappos uses social media to build a social community.
  2. How does Zappos encourage word-of-mouth marketing through social media?
  3. If you were the social media director for Zappos, what quantitative and qualitative measures would you use to evaluate the success of the firm’s social media activities?
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