I love Zappos. I mean I really love this website that offers thousands of products including shoes, clothes, beauty, accessories and more. If Zappos were a person, I would have a major crush. I spend more time on Zappos than any other website out there.
I could go into minute detail about all the ways I love it, but I will restrain myself and tell you just two. First, they have the best search engine out there. I have skinny calves and it’s so easy for me to do a search for 1-inch black boots for skinny calves, or purple ballet flats or blue moto jackets. Second, they seem like such a fun company. They have cute little sayings on the shoes boxes and on the website. And the customer service reps actually give great service (ok, that’s three reasons).
I was absolutely thrilled when I was offered the opportunity to interview with the fashion director of Zappos (his official title is fashion czar, and the people who work for him are dukes and duchesses and princes and princesses. Love that!!). I was a little afraid that I would be disappointed (like the time I sat at a table at Benihana with Rick Springfield and even though I left him alone except to tell him I liked his music on the way out, he was very rude). The fashion czar, unlike Rick, was as funny and friendly as I had hoped he would be. Phew! Here’s my interview with Zappos Fashion Czar Galen Hardy.
Me: I’ve always wondered, how did Zappos get its name?
Him: It’s an offshoot of Zapatos, the Spanish word for shoes. They started with Zapos, but decided to add an extra “p” to the name. The first name they came up with was shoesite.com, but they wanted the name to be more flexible in case the site offered other products in the future.
Me: What’s your role and the role of your team?
Him: There are 30 of us who buy for all categories from kids to contemporary. And we go to shows all over from outdoor apparel shows to fashion week.
Me: How do you pick what to buy for the site?
Him: I don’t, or no one would buy anything. I have buyers per lifestyle category who live that lifestyle. The action lifestyle buyers ski and skate, etc. Our buyers trust the designers, and rely on the brands to recommend items to us, and we look at historical trends and data as well. We have 10 people here at Fashion Week. Our people are on the ground and entrenched in their categories.
Me: What’s your favorite trend for fall?
Him: Definitely leather, inlaid in denim, moto jackets. Everyone should have a leather piece this fall.
Me: What would you like Zappos to be known for?
Him: We are a service company that offers fill in the blank. We try to gain an emotional connection with the customer whether it’s the ease of return (they offer 365-day returns), the customer service group or the 24/7 shopping.
We don’t have limits for our customer service calls. We actually had a call last for 10 hours! In fact, once when our CEO was with a client, they wanted to get a late night pizza. The hotel had stopped room service. Tony (Hsieh, the CEO) told the woman to call Zappos customer service, without telling them she was with the CEO, and ask for some pizza places that make late night deliveries. The woman called and within minutes had the names of several places.
Me: Who are your favorite designers?
Him: I like Tom Ford. From the site I like Marc Jacobs,Ted Baker, Donald Pliner. I like John Varvatos suits. My style is a combo of the 1950s and what’s currently trending.
Me: How do you want to develop Zappos fashion over the next few years?
Him: We just launched Coveted, an umbrella where all the contemporary brands are located. It heightens the shopping experience because some customers are looking for a curated selection. We offer 1500-1600 brands. Some people like to look through everything that’s out there, but some people don’t.
Our fundamentals of fun and customer service won’t change, but we are always trying to innovate the experience for the customer. We are also expanding brands on Zappos Couture.
I had such an interesting talk with Galen, and I look forward to seeing how Zappos keeps changing and growing in the future!