Zappos overhauls its website for home-bound customers

Apr 08, 2020

Nearly all retailers have updated their websites to detail how COVID-19 has disrupted business as usual, but few have gone as far as Zappos in assuring customers it is prepared to meet their needs in the uncertain days ahead.

Among the updates: 

  • Zappos & COVID-19: A Shipping And Customer Service Update For You: In line with the colloquial tone often used by the retailer in consumer communications, Zappos writes that its staff are “working parents, community members, and people just trying to navigate a new normal.” Orders are climbing “dramatically” and deliveries may take “longer than you normally expect,” the notice says. With service teams working from home, callers “may hear our children in the background. Possibly our pets too. Please be patient with us as we adapt to this new normal.”
  • We’re In This Together: The focal point of the home page details how Zappos is giving back during the crisis and the ways customers may help. Customers are encouraged to vote for a “hero”, one of whom will receive a $250 Zappos gift card each day. Other initiatives include Zappos’ partnership to provide Crocs footwear to healthcare professionals. Its campus bistro has been providing ready-to-eat meals to the elderly and vulnerable near its Las Vegas headquarters, and its Soles4Souls partnership provides new and lightly used shoes and clothing to those affected by the coronavirus fallout.
  • Home at Home: Comfort Essentials: The pay displays offerings of slippers, athleisure, leggings “and other essentials you need to stay comfy and cozy until things calm down.” A number of “casual yet polished” looks are also available to handle video conference calls for those working from home.
  • Customer Service for Anything: Launched in April, Zappos’ customer service team now offers to help customers with “anything” including what local restaurants offer delivery, what’s in stock at the local grocer and what apps can help with social isolation. Customers can also call “if you just want someone to talk to, a kind voice, about anything — the weather, the latest Netflix show, your dream vacation plans for when this is over — anything. We’d love to connect with you.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should Zappos’ approach serve as a model for other retailers to follow in communicating with and engaging customers during the COVID-19 pandemic? What parts of Zappos’ messaging stand out to you?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"But I am most impressed with 'Customer Service for Anything' because it goes above and beyond what anyone would expect from a retailer. "
"Is it a model for other retailers? Only in that every retailer needs to figure what is right and will work for their customers."

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13 Comments on "Zappos overhauls its website for home-bound customers"

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Jeff Weidauer

Most companies have added a COVID-19 section to their websites, often in a red banner at the top, explaining how they are here for us. Zappos has gone beyond this and made itself available, with its characteristically friendly and simple approach that engages the shopper. While it’s not necessary to redo the website, other companies can take heed of this approach and simply try to be more human in a time when humanity is struggling.

Dave Bruno

There’s nothing not to like about what Zappos is doing, but I am particularly enamored with their “Customer Service for Anything” program. Putting their service reps to work to help people with anything – including just a friendly voice – is a heartwarming offer. The Customer Service for Anything program has the potential to provide an invaluable service to people who just need a helping hand or human interaction, and that type of value will not soon be forgotten. Kudos to Zappos for doing so many right things here.

Lee Kent

I love Zappos and what they are doing is just perfect for them! Is it a model for other retailers? Only in that every retailer needs to figure what is right and will work for their customers. Not everyone wants to give off that “oh so casual” vibe like Zappos. As well as the neighborly services. Others may not be able to pull it off. Keep up the good work Zappos and thanks for showing us how you are always at the forefront of change! For my 2 cents.

Bethany Allee

The messages standing out right now are the humble ones of honesty. Kudos to Zappos for giving it to their customers in a straight way with massive humanity. Zappos is going above and beyond for their customers and employees. The long-term impact to the Zappos brand is that it will retain this humanity and greater purpose – the highest aspiration a brand can strive for.

Rich Kizer

Oh my gosh, I feel like I have discovered a free any-issue therapy service. They better have a lot of staff ready to hold the phones. Now, as I take my tongue out of my cheek, it is good to see a retailer who wants to help others with all those services. I am sure they are planning strategies of what they will do when the doors can fly open. Here’s one: Therapy recliners? It fits. But when you want to help others, maybe the only boundary we should have is to do all that we can to help. I think that is Zappos’ approach. They have always been one of the best in service.

Georganne Bender

Helping during the COVID-19 epidemic is something all retailers are doing right now. I appreciate the explanation about shipping and customer service, noisy pets and kids included. I applaud the humanitarian effort in partnering with Crocs, and I love the $250 gift card for heroes.

But I am most impressed with “Customer Service for Anything” because it goes above and beyond what anyone would expect from a retailer. Zappos will call a few grocery stores to see if what you want is in stock? That’s just amazing. And people will call. My partner Rich and I are doing something similar with independent retailers with our “We’ve Got Your Back!” Q&A program. Questions of course have been heavily retail related, but others might surprise you. We read a book to a little girl while her mom received a shipment. We’re all in this together, right?

Shep Hyken

Zappos has always been a leader in the online retail world. Why else would Amazon have bought them? They are an excellent role model and can teach many retailers how to raise their level of customer service and experience. Not everything Zappos is doing is appropriate for all retailers, but they sure do give us something to talk about. Learn from the best and adopt what you can!

Mohamed Amer, PhD

Working from home is blurring the lines between business and home, formal and family, retailing and sheltering. Zappos’ entire approach is what stands out for me. It’s honest, cohesively integrated and well thought through. The company is boldly addressing fear and uncertainty with an acceptance of the current reality and the changing needs of their customers. Other retailers can benefit by revisiting the overall nature of their website, by acknowledging and being sensitive to the situation so they can create a more effective customer environment than screaming discount banners of business as usual.

Ryan Mathews

Hard to argue with the overall spirit of the offers, or most of the specifics, but if I were a retailer I wouldn’t offer a help line for people who feel like they are climbing the walls. The odds of having something terrible happen when someone who is really mentally ill, as opposed to suffering from boredom and/or cabin fever, are simply too high. Even one or two suicides following a call to Zappos could crush the brand. I’m sure their folks are trained to tell obviously seriously mentally ill people to call 911 or a suicide help line, or whatever — but people in that state of mind rarely follow good advice.

Doug Garnett

Zappos did well in creating a valid “we are in this together” message. So much of the SpamDemic communication speaks loudly of “we are in this together” without any true sense of it (credit to Dan Goldgeier of Seattle for the term “SpamDemic” @DanGoldgeier on Twitter).

But don’t follow Zappos. Each retailer needs to look into their own heart and their own relationship with their customers to determine what’s best in their situation. A copycat website is going to hit a hollow and unhelpful note.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Awesome response by Zappos – it is personal, real, emphasizes comfort for now, and offers connection. At the same time, it fits with their brand image.

Craig Sundstrom

I’m split on this: I’m fine with it from a “business as usual” (or trying to be, anyway) perspective. Adjusting to events is exactly what you should do.

But from another perspective: if I were a store-based retailer, I’d be very likely to see the continued online operation of non-essential retailers as “unfair competition” until we can reach a consensus that every step of the fulfillment process is safe — including specifically warehouse work — I’m uncomfortable with (this type of) online sales.

Patricia Vekich Waldron

These new experiences and services are absolutely in-line with Zappos brand promise to “Surprise & Delight” customers. They have a history of pivoting and promoting to deliver extraordinary experience to their core customer: the CEO Mom. Other brands would be well served to keep their core customer front-and-center when developing programs to serve and differentiate themselves during the pandemic.

"But I am most impressed with 'Customer Service for Anything' because it goes above and beyond what anyone would expect from a retailer. "
"Is it a model for other retailers? Only in that every retailer needs to figure what is right and will work for their customers."

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