Long before Tony Hsieh stepped into his current shoes - a pair of Asics most days - he ran a pizza business while in college. That's when and where the 1995 Harvard University graduate met Alfred Lin - then his no. 1 pizza customer, now the COO and CFO of Zappos.com.
Together they co-founded Venture Frogs, an incubator and investment firm that funded Internet start-ups including Ask Jeeves, Tellme Networks and Zappos.com. Hsieh joined the Henderson, online shoe retailer full time in 2000. Now the company's CEO, Hsieh is credited with growing sales from $1.6 million in 2000 to more than $1 billion by 2008. Last summer, the world's largest online shoe retailer was acquired by amazon.com in deal valued at approximately $887.9 million.
Hsieh helped make Zappos.com a market leader by stressing customer service and selection. It stocks some 1,000 brands - and 3 million pairs - of shoes, many difficult to find in mainstream malls. Hsieh also believes in communication technology: Zappos provides training for all staff on the use of Twitter, and the company has earned leadership kudos for the use of social networks to promote its culture and brand. Therefore it shouldn't be surprising that Hsieh is being honored as NRF Retail Innovator of the Year for setting Zappos.com apart from the pack through the use of new and imaginative techniques and formats.
I learned that it's not enough to focus just on what you sell: you really need to think about the overall customer experience. For the pizza business, it meant creating a fun enviroment where students would want to hang out. For Zappos, it means delivering great customer service and making a personal emotional connection with our customers.
The "Twittering CEO".
Hsiah only send out one to two tweets a day, so it only takes a few minutes. You can view the number of followers he has (approximately 1.5 million) - twitter.com/zappos. He tries to inspire, connect, entertain, and/or educate with each of his tweets. Those are things that can resonate with anyone.
Zappo has a super-blogger named Melissa. They have a lot of photos and videos on blogs (blogs.zappos.com). Many of them are done to give people insight into what the Zappos culture is like. They have many different Zappo events that happens everyday, so it's hard to keep track of them all. That's part of what they really like about their culture: Employees from all over the company are the ones coming up with the ideas, and they run with whatever they're passionate about.
Hsiah read a lot of customer feedback on a daily basis that get through twitter and by email, but in terms of day-to-day operations for market and costumers service, we have teams of people who are dedicated to those things.
I think the most inspiring thing is that we're just scratching the surface of what's possible. Ten years ago, we wouldn't have been able to predict or imagine that we'd be where we are today. I'm inspired and excited by what we could be doing 10 years from now.