When Zappos.com entered the online retail landscape a decade ago, there were still many people who thought you couldn't sell shoes online because consumers generally want to try them on first. This didn't deter founder Nick Swinmurn, who proceeded to launch the world's largest online shoe store even after he was turned away by numerous venture capitalists for funding.
Once Zappos started to gain momentum – sales reached $1.6 million in 2001 – executives realized that it had to go beyond being the biggest online retailer. “The original idea was to have the most shoes online but, over the next few years that morphed into offering the very best customer service,” says Fred Mossler, who has been with the company since the beginning and oversees business development, training, customer loyalty and content.
Zappos pioneered many customer-oriented services in online shoe shopping, including free shipping, free return shipping and shooting every product in every color as well as at multiple angles. For its efforts, Zappos ended up on Fortune's list of best companies to work for in 2009.
Zappos, acquired by Amazon this summer, is setting its sights on expanding that formula into other categories, such as apparel and accessories.