Zappos website conversion philosophy


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On a scale on one to ten, how weird are you?

This question is a standard new hire interview question for potential Zappos recruits. We caught up with Tony Hsieh, CEO of, recently, and he talks eloquently about hiring and firing staff based on the company’s core values. Core values may not be the first thing you think about when trying to increase your conversion rate, but they are at the heart of Zappos conversion philosophy, together with ‘fun and a little weirdness.’

Many ecommerce companies understandably want to drive conversions online, not by phone. But one of the key reasons for abandonment is that some customers would rather speak to a person.  Zappos may describe their business somewhat differently from the average ecommerce company, as being in the ‘high touch business, not high tech’ but clearly offering a phone number is essential to maximizing conversion.

“Unlike other websites, we want to talk to our customers” said Tony Hsieh at the Silverpop Summit last week. Zappos put their phone number at the top of every webpage, and positively invite their customers to contact them by phone. “We don’t have scripts, we don’t up-sell, and we don’t measure ‘Average Handle Time” Hsieh maintains. “It’s not about making sales, it’s about how people feel. We want to build a personal emotional connection with our customers, to create happiness so our customers tell their friends and family. Each phone call is a branding opportunity.”

What Zappos have done is remarkable. 90% of new business comes through a word of mouth referral; 75% of orders are from repeat customers. And when the company was sold to Amazon, the shares were valued at $1.2bn

For Zappos, culture is their number one priority, not customer service. By building a team with a shared set of cultural values, coupled with missionary zeal, they are relying on ‘delivering WOW through service’ but without the normal regimented scripts and boundaries that you normally associate with call center teams.

What’s striking about this philosophy is that it parallels many of the Lessons Learned from the top 10 Converting websites. In this report we discovered that the secret to maximizing website conversion was not about whether you have a red button or a green one on your checkout pages, but based on your business philosophy. The highest converting websites convert up to ten times more traffic into sales, compared with average sites, because they build a meaningful relationship with their customers and use marketing to drive customers back to the site to buy again, and again.

So while it may not be the most cost effective way to convert customers, the phone is still a very valuable channel. Expect to see more phone numbers on websites in the future, as ecommerce companies cotton on to the value to building your brand one phone call at a time.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Charles Nicholls
Charles Nicholls is a social commerce expert and board advisor to several e-commerce startups. He founded SeeWhy, a real-time personalization and machine learning platform, which was sold to SAP. Serving as SVP of product, he built SAP Upscale Commerce, an e-commerce platform for direct-to-consumer brands and the mid-market. Today, Charles serves as chief strategy officer for SimplicityDX, a commerce experience company. He has worked on strategy and projects for leading ecommerce companies worldwide, including Amazon, eBay, Google and many others.


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