Well, it helps that Zappos got started way back in the early days of e-commerce!, but they also set out to do e-commerce right, from the moment they went into business. Zappos pioneered the free shipping and free returns business model to reduce the barrier associated with ordering something like shoes (that may be hard to fit) online. The might as well have coined the phrase “Enjoy Free Shipping”
They Zappos team also had the foresight to recognize the importance of search engines. They built their site to maximize search engine exposure and designed the shopping process to match the way people buy shoes. It’s crazy, but to many companies, this is still a very novel concept.
In traditional advertising and even online banner and rich media advertising you can pretty much say what you want to say and as long as it has your logo and some call to action, you’ll get some clicks and sales and “build brand awareness”.
Online, the game is much different. When is the last time you saw a banner ad for Zappos outside of a coupon or shopping site? Most likely never. Zappos does run an affiliate program through Commission Junction and some sites other than shopping sites do pick up the banners but the point is, Zappos brand was and is not being built by online branding campaigns.
When a site offers amazing customer service and is organized to reflect the way you want to shop and is designed from the ground up to maximize search engine exposure, you don’t need to blow money on advertising to build your brand. Instead, customers will have a delightful brand experience after they find the site through a search engine and they will build your brand for you. Where do you turn to figure out where to shop online? If a banner happens to catch your eye, a banner or display ad might influence where you shop. Most likely you’re going to turn to a search engine, shopping site or a favorite blog and then rave about your experience to everyone you know when Zappos delivers exactly what you wanted with FREE overnight shipping and hassle free returns if you need to return an item.
Next, lets look at the Zappos site architecture. When you search for almost any kind of shoes online, either a specific shoe size or a particular brand of shoes, Zappos turns up near the top of the listings. As mentioned previously, it helps that they got an early start and have had years to build up links. In addition to that, however, the site is very lean, relatively simple and low tech and therefore search engine friendly, easy to use, and easy to buy from. What makes it easy to buy from?