https://www.zappos.com/c/rewards

Overall Loyalty Driver Score: 26.6

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TIME – 26

In Store – 5

On Website – 10

We are constantly perplexed as to why more companies are not caching credit cards or other payment methods. It is the slowest part of any transaction, entering payment information. Many high-quality companies mastered this long ago, such as Amazon and Zappos. This is a pickup on their part. Maybe it is coming soon.

In App – 10

The app experience is great and gets high marks. Here, you can save payment information, connect Apple Pay and use your fingerprint. We are not convinced that they do a lot of volume for apparel on their app, but no matter. Whatever their customers are shopping for on the app, it transacts quickly.

Streamlined in-store/on location experience (shopping) – 1

They recognize me at checkout with speedy exits due to stored payment and shipping information, which is great and should be standard by this point across the retail and ecommerce industry, but sadly isn’t. But they drop the ball in not knowing who I am throughout the process and with shoes, at least, they should know I haven’t changed sizes in the history of my account. Why even let me peruse shoes that have no chance of fitting me? It’s a pretty easy move to make to save me time and to Recognize me, but they force me to select my size (and other filters) and let me go on my way. It is such a small thing, and it would be received with such out-sized praise, but they opt not to do this year after year. Especially for the people whose feet are on the half size. Note this, in Men’s Sandals, here are the amount of choices offered for four different sizes:

9 (977)

9.5 (65)

10 (951)

10.5 (49)

Further still, they know that some brands size their shoes just a little differently. I have always worn a half-size up with Adidas. I’m sure this slight difference persists across other brands.

Streamlined website/app shopping experience (returns) – 10

One of the main features that helped Zappos punch through were the easy returns. They were way ahead of the curve in this respect and opened consumers eyes to being able to still shop while online. Try them on and send them back. A novel concept when they first arrived on the scene. They have continued to refine and shape this experience—and the industry along with it, as we all judge other retailers by how much or how little they provide a similar experience to what we are used to with Zappos.

It’s very easy and quick to login, find your recent purchase, pick the items you are returning, and print a label. The added step pf selecting which products are being returned drives home that they Recognize who you are and your purchasing, while at the same time helping Zappos to know if its inventory is on-shelf or in transit—one direction or another. Pretty sharp.

While we wish they would include the return label with the purchase email so that we don’t have the extra login step, we do understand that it messes with their inventory by being blind to what is coming back. No worries, it is still a fast process with this extra step.

Proactive communications and management – 10

Zappos is very good at sending the right amount of transactional emails that confirm purchase and alert shipping, as well as shipping changes and when items are returned. Their emails are usually designed with a template of their own site so that it’s easy to find what you are likely looking for downstream of a purchase. The touches are light, they arrive at the right times, and they keep us from worrying where returns or purchases are, how much they cost or were refunded. They have light encouragement to review, but not too much. And the subject lines are pretty refreshing for a company that likely sends millions a month.

FINANCIAL – 20

While Zappos has built up a nice brand out of the original dot.com era, it really hasn’t done this one savings, rather on massive inventory, much like its parent company Amazon. Often large inventory is synonymous with cheap prices or widespread savings, but no so much with Zappos in some kind of slight of hand that’s been hard to detect. They have built their brand as a convenient way to shoe shop, among other items, but really it’s shoes.

Perceived or Actual Savings – 6

As mentioned, to the passerby there is a perceived savings by using Zappos, but in reality their prices are just as good (or bad) as the next place. But as we talk about over and over, Time is the new loyalty currency, and we keep coming back because of the time savings and convenience both in almost always having everything as well as the downstream ease of shipping it right back if it isn’t quite right. But dollars to donuts, we are paying for this convenience.

Select or members only pricing – 1

Zappos does have a loyalty program, that is free to join, but it does not include members only pricing. There are a few carrots here and there that amount to a few extra points earned, but not on the level to where it would be considered members only. Perhaps the margins are too narrow here or they know full well that they are priced competitively enough that their flytrap is still sticky, even if it’s less sweet than some other companies. Either way, they aren’t trying to gain our loyalty or our business with a program or pricing that incentivizes this.

Reward/Loyalty points – 1

Wow. We cannot imagine a loyalty program being this ill-conceived by a brand with this stature. It’s going to be hard to laugh at this concept from enough angles to give you the full spectrum of hilarity, but we will try.

First, their loyalty program is free to join and sometimes they just opt you into it without asking. Great! Next, it has this feel that it was invented by Mr. Burns from The Simpson’s as it has enough business savvy to want to encourage more purchase behavior, but then it also feels like it doesn’t actually want to give out any rewards for this behavior. I’ll explain.

If you login to the website or the app, you get 50 points. If you review a purchase that they care about, you get 100 points. And then 10 points for each $1 you spend. It sure seems like we are racking up some loyalty points pretty fast here, doesn’t it? Well, it gets funnier.

There are tiers. Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Elite. Elite is by invite only. They show it on their grid of tier perks, but don’t say how you get an invite. The Platinum tier starts at 6000 points, so if you either spend $600, which isn’t that hard on shoes or you log in every day for 4 months, you are a member of the highest, non-invitation tier. We do need to mention that those 50 points for logging in is capped at once/day.

These points you are accumulating you can use to buy Reward Codes. Reward Codes are only issued evenly for $1, so you have to earn at least a dollar’s worth of points. No roundsies.

To get $1 worth of Reward Codes, you need 1000 points. That’s right. For every dollar you spend, they give you 10 points. And for every 1000 points you give them, they give you a Reward code than you can use for the equivalent of $1. It is the arcade currency exchange all over again – trade cash for tokens. Use tokens to win tickets. Use tickets to buy terrible prizes.

There are a few perks in here such as some cutting in line for special promotions but the real stuff seems to be reserved for elite members, but you can’t get in there. We’re guessing you need to spend $5000/year to earn that, but who knows.

All told, this is just a weird creation that gives us a gran mal trying to figure out how it even works let alone why they launched it and not to mention how they convinced Mr. Burns it was a good idea.

Sign up Bonus – 1

There is no sign up bonus for joining their site or the loyalty program, unless it’s a bonus that they opted you into it without asking.

Longer lasting products – 5

Zappos is not known for nor is it a reasonable part of their brand expectation to sell only enduring products, since they are a marketplace and don’t have their own products. Certainly, they do sell high, low, and medium quality items, it’s really up to you which to choose. For this, they get average/neutral marks.

Perceived personal value – 6

There isn’t much cachet in using Zappos, but there is a little. The loyalty to and use of Zappos comes in the form of Time, knowing where you get find lots of options and receive a great customer experience makes you clever. Using Zappos means you are a smart and discerning shopper, thus customers experience some personal value and pride in both using Zappos and telling others where they found certain products.

CONTENT/LEARNING – 15

For the most part, Zappos checks the box on content. We’re presuming they either are choosing to leave this up to the product maker to provide this content or believes they cannot for reasons that lie somewhere within the realm of brand interference. They have a blog, which is great; it’s well-conceived and executed. The blog is definitely operating in that safe space that corporate blogs tend to operate, but it’s good and edgy without pushing it. Aside from getting measurements correct for fit to reduce returns, there might not be a lot for Zappos to do to increase loyalty through content, but rest assured, this isn’t a huge source of dedication for them.

How to use products – 1

Not much, if any, effort dedicated here, but again, there may not need to be much instruction for how to use shoes by this point. There are likely some newer types of shoes that could stand some introduction, like the nimbus trail running shoes or those weird toe shoes, but aside from innovations, there likely isn’t much to be done and they are accepting that by not doing much.

How to get the most out of products – 1

Similar to how-to-use, not much being done in this area, however, we think more could be done to either aggregate their own reviews on a product to minimize problems, such as scuffs or lace wear-and-tear, or how to clean. We all like our shoes to last and to look good. While Zappos may secretly want the opposite, this is a pretty easy box to check that would only need to be done once, and could be a nice reach-out two to three weeks after purchase as we get our first scuffs or stains. Alas, that’s not happening.

How professionals use these products/services – 1

We find ourselves in the same spot here, where we don’t need Kobe Bryant to show us how to use a sneaker, though maybe we could use a Kerri Bradshaw to show us how to walk in Jimmy Choos over NYC storm grates. Personally, we think it would be great fun to see this in action, but they are likely bound by brand interference, which is fine. We guess.

Instructional / advice / etc.  – 5

Zappos checks the box here in their massive page which shows how to measure every product in their inventory by each potential or listed measurement. You can drill deeper to find various shoe sizes by European standards or ones that have unique or uncommon fits. This is helpful and necessary and just enough to prove they have done it. It’s not revolutionary. It doesn’t do much at all for people who have irregular shapes or otherwise don’t fit the traditional mold of sizes. There isn’t anything interactive or that addresses how we view ourselves when we try things on. There isn’t anything that talks of much nuance for types of apparel, body types, or wear and tear (this will shrink, these shoes are washable and that changes their shape, etc). They could do more here. They just do enough to prove they showed up.

Downstream/Iterations/Predictive – 7  

Zappos does a decent job, just better than average or neutral in pinging users who have just purchased items. It seems they can predict when you have bought a set of items that will likely include a return no matter if everything fits. If you order 6 of them same Sambas or two different sizes of the same shirt, for example, they are pretty sharp to follow up to see what fits what doesn’t and what is coming back soon. Again, this helps them manage their inventory in some very easy-to-predict ways. Often these are under the guise of a request for a review, but it seems they are often Trojan horses to prompt the next action, which is to order something else and/or return what doesn’t fit. It’s not revolutionary, but it is sharp and welcomed and something everyone could do.

Where they could really step up their game is to follow with cleaning principles of particular item types, say canvas Adidas shoes or how to keep the whites white on certain items or whatever is the main issue that people faces downstream of their happy purchase. These is easy content for them to source and deploy and would be worth more than any blog post on top reasons to by a $100 raincoat.

ACCESS – 19

Zappos has juuuuuust a little bit of Access buried in their loyalty program. It’s not clear how much of a driver of activity this would be or even how often windows to products or events or lead time arise, let alone how much customers look for it and depend on it. But they are trying. They don’t get incredibly high marks here, but they have shown up and tried, and like the heroes in our stories, that’s what we want to see in brands we follow today.

In-store/at location – 1

Zappos obviously doesn’t have a location to show up to, so impossible for them to offer anything here.

Exclusivity – Places – 1

We often think of Access to exclusive places like the United Lounge in an airport. In our research we have not found much of this, but it almost has to exist in some shoe store somewhere, sponsored by Zappos. If you’ve seen or heard of anything like this, let us know and we will get this portion updated. Until then, we can’t grade what we can’t find.

Exclusivity – Events/People – 5

Looking at the Zappos for Good Program, it seems like they partner with some big names/brands like Shaq, Vera Bradley, and Michael Franti in an effort to give back to the community and just do good, much like Tom’s Shoes. The Zappos for Good Program doesn’t exactly make the promise that you get to meet or see any of the stars or otherwise star brand intersections that are sort of hinted at when you are connected with this program. If only in appearance, this appearance is built on the power of the Zappos brand and that you, too, can get access to brands and celebrities like these if you hang around and pay attention.

They also have buried in their loyalty program early access to Zappos events (which will be communicated to you via email). They don’t mention any examples of what these events are either upcoming or in the past. However, you have tiered line access depending on if you are a Gold, Platinum, or Elite member. Zappos gets a little love for participating in Event Access, but alas, it’s hard to know what these events are let alone have a stance on if they are driving increased loyalty to their brand.

Exclusivity – Product – 5

Zappos lists exclusive products as part of their Access in various tiers of their loyalty program, but we doubt very much that they mean exclusive products so much as they mean lead time. Our view of an exclusive product is something that non-members would not receive, thus incentivizing joining the program and driving your loyalty beyond that of the casual customer. It’s possible that there are products that ONLY high tier Zappos loyalty members receive, so we score this a neutral until we are able to see what exactly these members get. If it’s Zappos pens or stickers or mouse pads, it likely won’t change their grade. If it’s truly something that changes loyalty behavior, we will gladly grade accordingly.

Lead time – 6

The lead time on these special products is likely the real prize, as the tiered access to limited edition sneakers and short runs of special products is likely the reason to be a loyal member of Zappos. After all, these shoes are unlikely to be made especially for and exclusive to Zappos members. Rather, it’s the queue and who gets in it in what order that drives the loyalty here. We are unclear how often this happens, but it is a plank in their loyalty program, so it must be meaningful to some groups.

Information/Intelligence/Data – 1

We lament this section for nearly every brand, especially those who sit on mountains of customer data and a tech stack that is more than capable of creating individual insights for customer, and still they don’t. Zappos should have a decent sense—especially if they are able to use customer data from Amazon—about who you are, where you are in life, and how this might lead to not only what your next Zappos purchase might be, but also when. They don’t have to make huge psychographic leaps and could even just take huge swings and misses at this and learn from the data they collect to sharpen and refine and perfect.

This goes beyond caring for shoes, but rather providing only their most loyal customers with the kind of insights and perhaps gifts (fresh laces) at the right times. Imagine if they provided access to the 10 most common shoes that were purchased before and after a specific pair of shoes that you also bought. Whether or not a customer does anything with this information, it is the kind of information (like Zillow’s Zestimate) that we devour all the time. This information and others like it is sitting in their database. It would be a snap to turn it out and a guaranteed intervention moment that leads to additional purchases as well as social sharing. We are giving you pearls here.

RECOGNITION – 53

Zappos is great at recognizing its customers. They don’t have top marks across the board but they do so many smart things in some many areas of customer touch points that they are certainly a leader in the retail and ecommerce field. There are a few additional pieces they could create to further recognize their individual customers, thereby saving them Time and creating additional loyalty, but that is just holding leaders to a higher standard because they are already so good.

In-App – 7

The app essentially mimics the website experience with order history, payment information, shipping locations, the works. The recently viewed items don’t seem to persist from website to app, though the recently viewed items through the app stay in the app. And again, beating the same drum here, but they don’t filter for your size or gender or the like. Nobody else does either, but the leaders should give it a try.

Individual Emails – 7

Most of their emails are very transactional, and whether or not they are recognizing you as an individual customer or not is hard to tell and also, frankly, not necessarily needed. They do understand where items are going, when they are coming back, and when they have arrived, and all through automated emails we are able to live a life of convenience. The curation of content is lacking here, as they don’t send many—if any—communications predicting what I might like or what is in short supply or what I’ve recently viewed that is now cheaper or available in additional colors or the like. With 20 years of transactions under their belts, if they can’t predict what certain audiences generally like, well then maybe this isn’t possible after all. What are we saying? Of course it’s possible.

Newsletters/Blasts – 4

Zappos doesn’t hammer you like they could or even a little bit like they should. They produce some great content on their blog, plus they have what has to be an insane amount of customer data. AND they are already very savvy with email automation. They are missing an opportunity here to Recognize their customer base, likely as audiences and segments, take the wins and iterate and learn from the duds. This stuff is knowable and actionable. They can and should be actively trying this.

In-Store (shopping) – 5

They aren’t worse than anyone else, but aside from tacking on “Recently viewed” items to my session, they don’t do much beyond a normal account to Recognize me as an individual customer. Frankly, the “recently viewed” doesn’t even take into account that I have already purchased a few items from that list and also returned some. Clear evidence that I have made my selection in this grouping, yet still they push the recently viewed because it is easy. And they push it a lot. New arrivals are easy, as well, but not specific to me as a customer. No pre-filtering for my size or gender or narrowing by preferences. It’s a missed opportunity to earn some loyalty from proving they Recognize who I am and can save me Time.

On-Website (returns) – 10

They are great with returns as this is a data link. They don’t really need to know who I am, as I am just a transaction that needs to send something back to them. They have returns down ice cold, and smartly don’t need to bring a lot of personal Recognition into play, when this is just an exchange; not a place to earn any more than what their already incredible return service provides.

Stored Memory – 10

We just love it that they store our old purchases, as well as what we returned and the dollars spend. Other top retail brands do this as well and it will soon be requisite across all brands as a nice perk to deliver from the database where this information already sits. They have this both on the app and the website.

Philanthropy – 10

Zappos has a philanthropic arm called Zappos for Good, which, if we’re being honest is just okay and no better or worse than any other brand doing this kind of social giving. We aren’t so heartless and cynical as to think that this is all for show, but rather that every brand does this in some form, so it’s not all that unique.

However, they also have their Adaptive program, which addresses the special and unique needs of about every adaptive type you could image. They also have an Adaptive Advisory Council that is large and diverse in background. In this instance, which isn’t exactly philanthropic, as nothing is being given away, but they are doing a smart and excellent job of recognizing and underserved audience within their market and figuring out proper and correct ways to serve them better.

If you were part of an organization that was working with Zappos in a philanthropic capacity, you might tip your cap to Zappos, but it likely won’t increase your loyalty to them all that much. However, if you or a family member had adaptive needs, the Adaptive area of the Zappos brand we believe will certainly create loyalty to the Zappos brand. This is an area that Zappos has mined and conquered, and an example from which all should learn.

The REO Co-Op Membership is well-known and well-used among outdoor enthusiasts, clocking in at over 17 million members. One of the keys to its success is in its clarity. It’s a one-time $20 fee to become a member, and as a member you get 10% cash back on all of your purchases at REI, what is known as their dividend (since they are a co-op). REI has its own line, plus is a retailer of all the major outdoor brands. They have their own credit card where you receive 5% cash back on REI platforms and 1% on other purchases. They rent outdoor gear. They train members on how to use equipment or do certain outdoor activities. You can buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS). They have created a brand that indistinguishable from the customers who use it. Their brand is no-nonsense, it’s laid back, easy to use, with layer upon layer of additional benefits that even long-time members aren’t aware of.

Their trouble is the tensile strength of their ability to expand this product. While they certainly can and should adopt more features that will save their customers time in store and on their site via smart recognition of their customers, it is likely difficult given the size of their membership and the density with which their customer base is in store, not to mention their mission. It’s hard to treat members with an additional level of care and recognition when there could be 100 in the store at the same time. (If everyone gets priority boarding, we are just back to regular boarding.) But they could stand to use data from purchases to help shape their online and in-app shopping experiences, as well as using that data to draw customers into their content, events, and classes, which they have put a lot of effort behind.

Their final frontier, which is frankly surprising that they have not done much with this, is a higher level of access for their members. While the size of their membership base is limiting for some angles at this, they are missing a whole ocean of chances to provide their members (or next level members) exclusive access to outdoor events (races, VIP), talks with famous outdoor figures, lead time on tickets to outdoor festivals and product sales, you name it. They have opted not to integrate themselves too closely with the outdoor sports communities, which is such a mystery it makes us wonder if they were hurt before.

TIME – 26

Mainly REI doesn’t save its customers a ton of time, and they may not be looking to. If you want a raincoat, there are 25 different brands, 20 different colors, 10 different weights, and 4 different cost tiers. Seemingly everything they offer, they have in spades for about every economic class, taste, and skill level. It makes decisions slow and the shopping experience not one that necessarily needs to be faster.

However, in those final moments, members don’t have a special line or have a credit card saved in store.

In Store

On Website

We are constantly perplexed as to why more companies are not caching credit cards or other payment methods. It is the slowest part of any transaction, entering payment information. Many high-quality companies mastered this long ago, such as Amazon and Zappos. This is an pickup on their part. Maybe it is coming soon.

In App

The app experience is great and gets high marks. Here, you can save payment information, connect Apple Pay and use your fingerprint. We are not convinced that they do a lot of volume for apparel on their app, but no matter. Whatever their customers are shopping for on the app, it transacts quickly.

Streamlined in-store/on location experience (shopping)- 5

They recognize me at checkout with speedy exits due to stored payment and shipping information, which is great and should be standard by this point across the retail and ecommerce industry, but sadly isn’t. But they drop the ball in not knowing who I am throughout the process and with shoes, at least, they should know I haven’t changed sizes in the history of my account. Why even let me peruse shoes that have no chance of fitting me? It’s a pretty easy move to make to save me time and to Recognize me, but they force me to select my size (and other filters) and let me go on my way. It is such a small thing, and it would be received with such out-sized praise, but they opt not to do this year after year. Especially for the people whose feet are on the half size. Note this, in Men’s Sandals, here are the amount of choices offered for four different sizes:

9 (977)

9.5 (65)

10 (951)

10.5 (49)

Further still, they know that some brands size their shoes just a little differently. I have always worn a half-size up with Adidas. I’m sure this slight difference persists across other brands.

Streamlined website/app shopping experience (returns) – 10

One of the main features that helped Zappos punch through were the easy returns. They were way ahead of the curve in this respect and opened consumers eyes to being able to still shop while online. Try them on and send them back. A novel concept when they first arrived on the scene. They have continued to refine and shape this experience—and the industry along with it, as we all judge other retailers by how much or how little they provide a similar experience to what we are used to with Zappos.

It’s very easy and quick to login, find your recent purchase, pick the items you are returning, and print a label. The added step pf selecting which products are being returned drives home that they Recognize who you are and your purchasing, while at the same time helping Zappos to know if its inventory is on-shelf or in transit—one direction or another. Pretty sharp.

While we wish they would include the return label with the purchase email so that we don’t have the extra login step, we do understand that it messes with their inventory by being blind to what is coming back. No worries, it is still a fast process with this extra step.

Proactive communications and management – 10

Zappos is very good at sending the right amount of transactional emails that confirm purchase and alert shipping, as well as shipping changes and when items are returned. Their emails are usually designed with a template of their own site so that it’s easy to find what you are likely looking for downstream of a purchase. The touches are light, they arrive at the right times, and they keep us from worrying where returns or purchases are, how much they cost or were refunded. They have light encouragement to review, but not too much. And the subject lines are pretty refreshing for a company that likely sends millions a month.

FINANCIAL – 20

While Zappos has built up a nice brand out of the original dot.com era, it really hasn’t done this one savings, rather on massive inventory, much like its parent company Amazon. Often large inventory is synonymous with cheap prices or widespread savings, but no so much with Zappos in some kind of slight of hand that’s been hard to detect. They have built their brand as a convenient way to shoe shop, among other items, but really it’s shoes.

Perceived or Actual Savings – 6

As mentioned, to the passerby there is a perceived savings by using Zappos, but in reality their prices are just as good (or bad) as the next place. But as we talk about over and over, Time is the new loyalty currency, and we keep coming back because of the time savings and convenience both in almost always having everything as well as the downstream ease of shipping it right back if it isn’t quite right. But dollars to donuts, we are paying for this convenience.

Select or members only pricing – 1

Zappos does have a loyalty program, that is free to join, but it does not include members only pricing. There are a few carrots here and there that amount to a few extra points earned, but not on the level to where it would be considered members only. Perhaps the margins are too narrow here or they know full well that they are priced competitively enough that their flytrap is still sticky, even if it’s less sweet than some other companies. Either way, they aren’t trying to gain our loyalty or our business with a program or pricing that incentivizes this.

Reward/Loyalty points – 1

Wow. We cannot imagine a loyalty program being this ill-conceived by a brand with this stature. It’s going to be hard to laugh at this concept from enough angles to give you the full spectrum of hilarity, but we will try.

First, their loyalty program is free to join and sometimes they just opt you into it without asking. Great! Next, it has this feel that it was invented by Mr. Burns from The Simpson’s as it has enough business savvy to want to encourage more purchase behavior, but then it also feels like it doesn’t actually want to give out any rewards for this behavior. I’ll explain.

If you login to the website or the app, you get 50 points. If you review a purchase that they care about, you get 100 points. And then 10 points for each $1 you spend. It sure seems like we are racking up some loyalty points pretty fast here, doesn’t it? Well, it gets funnier.

There are tiers. Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Elite. Elite is by invite only. They show it on their grid of tier perks, but don’t say how you get an invite. The Platinum tier starts at 6000 points, so if you either spend $600, which isn’t that hard on shoes or you log in every day for 4 months, you are a member of the highest, non-invitation tier. We do need to mention that those 50 points for logging in is capped at once/day.

These points you are accumulating you can use to buy Reward Codes. Reward Codes are only issued evenly for $1, so you have to earn at least a dollar’s worth of points. No roundsies.

To get $1 worth of Reward Codes, you need 1000 points. That’s right. For every dollar you spend, they give you 10 points. And for every 1000 points you give them, they give you a Reward code than you can use for the equivalent of $1. It is the arcade currency exchange all over again – trade cash for tokens. Use tokens to win tickets. Use tickets to buy terrible prizes.

There are a few perks in here such as some cutting in line for special promotions but the real stuff seems to be reserved for elite members, but you can’t get in there. We’re guessing you need to spend $5000/year to earn that, but who knows.

All told, this is just a weird creation that gives us a gran mal trying to figure out how it even works let alone why they launched it and not to mention how they convinced Mr. Burns it was a good idea.

Sign up Bonus – 1

There is no sign up bonus for joining their site or the loyalty program, unless it’s a bonus that they opted you into it without asking.

Longer lasting products – 5

Zappos is not known for nor is it a reasonable part of their brand expectation to sell only enduring products, since they are a marketplace and don’t have their own products. Certainly, they do sell high, low, and medium quality items, it’s really up to you which to choose. For this, they get average/neutral marks.

Perceived personal value – 6

There isn’t much cachet in using Zappos, but there is a little. The loyalty to and use of Zappos comes in the form of Time, knowing where you get find lots of options and receive a great customer experience makes you clever. Using Zappos means you are a smart and discerning shopper, thus customers experience some personal value and pride in both using Zappos and telling others where they found certain products.

CONTENT/LEARNING – 15

For the most part, Zappos checks the box on content. We’re presuming they either are choosing to leave this up to the product maker to provide this content or believes they cannot for reasons that lie somewhere within the realm of brand interference. They have a blog, which is great; it’s well-conceived and executed. The blog is definitely operating in that safe space that corporate blogs tend to operate, but it’s good and edgy without pushing it. Aside from getting measurements correct for fit to reduce returns, there might not be a lot for Zappos to do to increase loyalty through content, but rest assured, this isn’t a huge source of dedication for them.

How to use products – 1

Not much, if any, effort dedicated here, but again, there may not need to be much instruction for how to use shoes by this point. There are likely some newer types of shoes that could stand some introduction, like the nimbus trail running shoes or those weird toe shoes, but aside from innovations, there likely isn’t much to be done and they are accepting that by not doing much.

How to get the most out of products – 1

Similar to how-to-use, not much being done in this area, however, we think more could be done to either aggregate their own reviews on a product to minimize problems, such as scuffs or lace wear-and-tear, or how to clean. We all like our shoes to last and to look good. While Zappos may secretly want the opposite, this is a pretty easy box to check that would only need to be done once, and could be a nice reach-out two to three weeks after purchase as we get our first scuffs or stains. Alas, that’s not happening.

How professionals use these products/services – 1

We find ourselves in the same spot here, where we don’t need Kobe Bryant to show us how to use a sneaker, though maybe we could use a Kerri Bradshaw to show us how to walk in Jimmy Choos over NYC storm grates. Personally, we think it would be great fun to see this in action, but they are likely bound by brand interference, which is fine. We guess.

Instructional / advice / etc.  – 5

Zappos checks the box here in their massive page which shows how to measure every product in their inventory by each potential or listed measurement. You can drill deeper to find various shoe sizes by European standards or ones that have unique or uncommon fits. This is helpful and necessary and just enough to prove they have done it. It’s not revolutionary. It doesn’t do much at all for people who have irregular shapes or otherwise don’t fit the traditional mold of sizes. There isn’t anything interactive or that addresses how we view ourselves when we try things on. There isn’t anything that talks of much nuance for types of apparel, body types, or wear and tear (this will shrink, these shoes are washable and that changes their shape, etc). They could do more here. They just do enough to prove they showed up.

Downstream/Iterations/Predictive – 7  

Zappos does a decent job, just better than average or neutral in pinging users who have just purchased items. It seems they can predict when you have bought a set of items that will likely include a return no matter if everything fits. If you order 6 of them same Sambas or two different sizes of the same shirt, for example, they are pretty sharp to follow up to see what fits what doesn’t and what is coming back soon. Again, this helps them manage their inventory in some very easy-to-predict ways. Often these are under the guise of a request for a review, but it seems they are often Trojan horses to prompt the next action, which is to order something else and/or return what doesn’t fit. It’s not revolutionary, but it is sharp and welcomed and something everyone could do.

Where they could really step up their game is to follow with cleaning principles of particular item types, say canvas Adidas shoes or how to keep the whites white on certain items or whatever is the main issue that people faces downstream of their happy purchase. These is easy content for them to source and deploy and would be worth more than any blog post on top reasons to by a $100 raincoat.

ACCESS – 19

Zappos has juuuuuust a little bit of Access buried in their loyalty program. It’s not clear how much of a driver of activity this would be or even how often windows to products or events or lead time arise, let alone how much customers look for it and depend on it. But they are trying. They don’t get incredibly high marks here, but they have shown up and tried, and like the heroes in our stories, that’s what we want to see in brands we follow today.

In-store/at location – 1

Zappos obviously doesn’t have a location to show up to, so impossible for them to offer anything here.

Exclusivity – Places – 1

We often think of Access to exclusive places like the United Lounge in an airport. In our research we have not found much of this, but it almost has to exist in some shoe store somewhere, sponsored by Zappos. If you’ve seen or heard of anything like this, let us know and we will get this portion updated. Until then, we can’t grade what we can’t find.

Exclusivity – Events/People – 5

Looking at the Zappos for Good Program, it seems like they partner with some big names/brands like Shaq, Vera Bradley, and Michael Franti in an effort to give back to the community and just do good, much like Tom’s Shoes. The Zappos for Good Program doesn’t exactly make the promise that you get to meet or see any of the stars or otherwise star brand intersections that are sort of hinted at when you are connected with this program. If only in appearance, this appearance is built on the power of the Zappos brand and that you, too, can get access to brands and celebrities like these if you hang around and pay attention.

They also have buried in their loyalty program early access to Zappos events (which will be communicated to you via email). They don’t mention any examples of what these events are either upcoming or in the past. However, you have tiered line access depending on if you are a Gold, Platinum, or Elite member. Zappos gets a little love for participating in Event Access, but alas, it’s hard to know what these events are let alone have a stance on if they are driving increased loyalty to their brand.

Exclusivity – Product – 5

Zappos lists exclusive products as part of their Access in various tiers of their loyalty program, but we doubt very much that they mean exclusive products so much as they mean lead time. Our view of an exclusive product is something that non-members would not receive, thus incentivizing joining the program and driving your loyalty beyond that of the casual customer. It’s possible that there are products that ONLY high tier Zappos loyalty members receive, so we score this a neutral until we are able to see what exactly these members get. If it’s Zappos pens or stickers or mouse pads, it likely won’t change their grade. If it’s truly something that changes loyalty behavior, we will gladly grade accordingly.

Lead time – 6

The lead time on these special products is likely the real prize, as the tiered access to limited edition sneakers and short runs of special products is likely the reason to be a loyal member of Zappos. After all, these shoes are unlikely to be made especially for and exclusive to Zappos members. Rather, it’s the queue and who gets in it in what order that drives the loyalty here. We are unclear how often this happens, but it is a plank in their loyalty program, so it must be meaningful to some groups.

Information/Intelligence/Data – 1

We lament this section for nearly every brand, especially those who sit on mountains of customer data and a tech stack that is more than capable of creating individual insights for customer, and still they don’t. Zappos should have a decent sense—especially if they are able to use customer data from Amazon—about who you are, where you are in life, and how this might lead to not only what your next Zappos purchase might be, but also when. They don’t have to make huge psychographic leaps and could even just take huge swings and misses at this and learn from the data they collect to sharpen and refine and perfect.

This goes beyond caring for shoes, but rather providing only their most loyal customers with the kind of insights and perhaps gifts (fresh laces) at the right times. Imagine if they provided access to the 10 most common shoes that were purchased before and after a specific pair of shoes that you also bought. Whether or not a customer does anything with this information, it is the kind of information (like Zillow’s Zestimate) that we devour all the time. This information and others like it is sitting in their database. It would be a snap to turn it out and a guaranteed intervention moment that leads to additional purchases as well as social sharing. We are giving you pearls here.

RECOGNITION – 53

Zappos is great at recognizing its customers. They don’t have top marks across the board but they do so many smart things in some many areas of customer touch points that they are certainly a leader in the retail and ecommerce field. There are a few additional pieces they could create to further recognize their individual customers, thereby saving them Time and creating additional loyalty, but that is just holding leaders to a higher standard because they are already so good.

In-App – 7

The app essentially mimics the website experience with order history, payment information, shipping locations, the works. The recently viewed items don’t seem to persist from website to app, though the recently viewed items through the app stay in the app. And again, beating the same drum here, but they don’t filter for your size or gender or the like. Nobody else does either, but the leaders should give it a try.

Individual Emails – 7

Most of their emails are very transactional, and whether or not they are recognizing you as an individual customer or not is hard to tell and also, frankly, not necessarily needed. They do understand where items are going, when they are coming back, and when they have arrived, and all through automated emails we are able to live a life of convenience. The curation of content is lacking here, as they don’t send many—if any—communications predicting what I might like or what is in short supply or what I’ve recently viewed that is now cheaper or available in additional colors or the like. With 20 years of transactions under their belts, if they can’t predict what certain audiences generally like, well then maybe this isn’t possible after all. What are we saying? Of course it’s possible.

Newsletters/Blasts – 4

Zappos doesn’t hammer you like they could or even a little bit like they should. They produce some great content on their blog, plus they have what has to be an insane amount of customer data. AND they are already very savvy with email automation. They are missing an opportunity here to Recognize their customer base, likely as audiences and segments, take the wins and iterate and learn from the duds. This stuff is knowable and actionable. They can and should be actively trying this.

In-Store (shopping) – 5

They aren’t worse than anyone else, but aside from tacking on “Recently viewed” items to my session, they don’t do much beyond a normal account to Recognize me as an individual customer. Frankly, the “recently viewed” doesn’t even take into account that I have already purchased a few items from that list and also returned some. Clear evidence that I have made my selection in this grouping, yet still they push the recently viewed because it is easy. And they push it a lot. New arrivals are easy, as well, but not specific to me as a customer. No pre-filtering for my size or gender or narrowing by preferences. It’s a missed opportunity to earn some loyalty from proving they Recognize who I am and can save me Time.

On-Website (returns) – 10

They are great with returns as this is a data link. They don’t really need to know who I am, as I am just a transaction that needs to send something back to them. They have returns down ice cold, and smartly don’t need to bring a lot of personal Recognition into play, when this is just an exchange; not a place to earn any more than what their already incredible return service provides.

Stored Memory – 10

We just love it that they store our old purchases, as well as what we returned and the dollars spend. Other top retail brands do this as well and it will soon be requisite across all brands as a nice perk to deliver from the database where this information already sits. They have this both on the app and the website.

Philanthropy – 10

Zappos has a philanthropic arm called Zappos for Good, which, if we’re being honest is just okay and no better or worse than any other brand doing this kind of social giving. We aren’t so heartless and cynical as to think that this is all for show, but rather that every brand does this in some form, so it’s not all that unique.

However, they also have their Adaptive program, which addresses the special and unique needs of about every adaptive type you could image. They also have an Adaptive Advisory Council that is large and diverse in background. In this instance, which isn’t exactly philanthropic, as nothing is being given away, but they are doing a smart and excellent job of recognizing and underserved audience within their market and figuring out proper and correct ways to serve them better.

If you were part of an organization that was working with Zappos in a philanthropic capacity, you might tip your cap to Zappos, but it likely won’t increase your loyalty to them all that much. However, if you or a family member had adaptive needs, the Adaptive area of the Zappos brand we believe will certainly create loyalty to the Zappos brand. This is an area that Zappos has mined and conquered, and an example from which all should learn.

www.zappos.com/c/rewards