Can Zappos survive Amazon?

Seth is right.

Amazon purchased Zappos for all the right reasons. But, as the saying goes, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

The key issue here is one of culture.  As I experienced first-hand during the Zappos Insights Live Event last week, Zappos has an incredible culture.  A culture built on creating happiness for employees, vendors and, of course, customers.

Amazon on the other hand, not so much.   They offer low prices and great selection, but that’s it.

Luckily for them, Amazon usually does such a good job with their web site and order fulfillment that it’s seldom necessary for them to actually engage with their customers.  In fact, they do the opposite of Zappos, and go out of their way to avoid direct contact with their customers. If you do get through to their customer service you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who can actually help you (or in my experience, speak English).  This is the exact opposite of Zappos, whose 400+ Twittering employees love engaging with customers.  In fact, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh personally engages with customers all the time.  Jeff Bezos on the other hand… 

The real question is when the dust settles who will influence whom regarding customer service?  Will Amazon learn from the Zappos model and offer top-level customer service to its customers? Or will Zappos slowly slip towards providing Amazonian customer service from now on?  Customer engagement is the new marketing and this is where the real culture clash between Zappos and Amazon is going to play out.  May the best customer service provider (Zappos) win‚Ķ.

I know Tony.  He’s an incredible leader.  Even though big companies have historically chewed up and spat out those they acquire, I think if anyone can make this work it’s Tony and his team.

And while we’re on the subject, if you haven‚Äôt done a Zappos tour yet, get to Vegas quick and take one.  I promise it’ll change the way you think about business. 


7 thoughts on “Can Zappos survive Amazon?

  1. DWilliams says:

    When I purchase from Amazon it’s for their selection and free delivery. Their prices are just so-so. I do like some of the features on their web site such as wish list, reviews, etc.

  2. Jon, great post brother. I too am intrigued to see if this marriage will work. You know the Zappos crew it sounds like so I’ll take your word that they’re going to hold on to their culture. It sounds like Amazon “married up” as they say. They got the pretty wife even though they’re the average looking guy with deep pockets.
    I think Zappos will teach Amazon a thing or two (or 20) about customer service. Amazon DOES do everything they can to NOT talk to their customers. What a lame business model.
    I personally use Amazon for their reviews and rarely purchase things from them b/c if something goes wrong I have no faith they’ll fix it.

  3. Great question! I’d say yes, absolutely. Because every once in a while the Amazon system fails and thats what people remember. I’ve probably had over 100 flawless transactions with amazon. But I remember the 2 bad ones because their customer service was so bad.

  4. Nice post — Tod has a good point. I think Zappos should keep doing what they do, but I’ve never had a problem with the way Amazon does business. I mainly use it to buy books and for that it works out just fine; I’ve never needed to contact customer service.

  5. Chris, I agree, Amazon is amazing for books. Especially on the kindle. You can’t beat instant delivery :-). The only time I’ve had issues with Amazon is when I’ve made purchases through Amazon from their “partners”. It’s tough to control what someone else does on your behalf, but a good customer service experience would go a long way to make it right when things do go wrong.

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