Dear Zappos -- I think you guys are an online shoe store, and a damn good one at that. To confirm this perception of your brand, I convened a focus group of Zappos customers for a qualitative research study. My data suggest 100% of Zappos customers agree with me. (Well, actually I shouted down the hall to ask my wife and son. Counting me, thats 3 of 3 -- my daughter hasn't gotten shoes from you yet so she didn't participate -- but that's 100%, right?) My family all thinks you're an online shoe store with great service. We don't perceive the Zappos brand as a service company that happens to sell great shoes. "Happens?" Geez! Your why shop Zappos page says that you have 1,150 brands, 158,405 styles, 914,128 UPCs, and 2,989,307 total products in your warehouse today. Kudos to your merchants for managing 900K UPCs -- that level of execution doesn't just "happen". As happy customers (have I mentioned how much my son loves his Heelys?), we'd agree with your 'why shop' reasons: free shipping both ways, fast shipping, selection, price protection, service, privacy, etc. Great service is important, sure, but it comes after selection and convenience. Online retail is retail, and retail is merchandising. Marketing folks like to think marketing is really important. ("If the customers didn't show up, we wouldn't have a business.") Operations folks like to think ops is really important. ("If we can't ship boxes well, the customers won't come back.") Both true. But really, at day's end, customers buy products, and merchants and merchandise rule. Be proud to be in shoe business, and keep up the great work! Sincerely -- Alan Zappos: heads up -- as of this writing, the topmost image on your homepage for free overnight shipping isn't working: http://www.zappos.com/img/hd_overnight_cmpct.gif is showing a red broken image 'x' on both IE and FF.
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