The eTail show content has been strong this year, one of the best coming from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com. Zappos has grown from a $1.6 million gross sales business in 2000 to $600 million in gross sales in 2006 and $800 million projected for 2007. Here are his top 10 e-commerce tips for success.
1. The e-commerce business is built on repeat customers. (The free overnight shipping is the investment in marketing dollars at Zappos.com).
2. Word of mouth really works online. (Both positive and negative)
3. Don’t compete on price. (Anyone can undercut, but it doesn’t build loyalty).
4. Make sure your Web site inventory is 100%. (Nothing makes a customer madder than an unfulfilled order).
5. Centrally locate your distribution. (Zappos moved from CA to Kentucky to reach the east and west coasts within 2 days for ground –UPS and FedEx have hubs nearby).
6. Customer service is an investment. (Not an expense).
7. Start small. Stay focused. (It will never be prefect from the start, so build it out as you go).
8. Don’t be secretive. Don’t worry about competitors. (Zappos actually finds products on competitors’ sites and refers business when they don’t have the stock!)
9. Actively manage your company culture. (Zappos is about customer service and all level employees go through the same 5 week training which includes taking phone calls and fulfilling orders in the warehouse to understand how the company works).
10. Be wary of so-called experts (including me…). (Zappos has hired consultants, but has found that no one knew their business better than they did.)