Have You Been Zappos’d?

Buying a pair of shoes used to involve going to a local store, selecting a pair from about 250 choices, and walking out with a box in hand. That was the model for shoe sales for the last 200 years. The shoe store owner was happy. You were happy. Everyone was happy. Until that model was completely shattered by Zappos.

As you probably know, Zappos is an online shoe store that stocks over 1 million pairs of shoes. They ship for free…both ways. So you can order 10 pairs of shoes, try them all on, and send back the nine you don’t like. They also consistently rank in the top 5% for customer service right along the Ritz Carlton and other luxury brands. Before they reached their 10th birthday, Zappos became the largest shoe store on the planet reaching over $1 billion in retail sales.

So in this new world, you as the customer are happy. Happier, in fact, with a bigger selection, great customer service, and total convenience. Zappos is happy (company was recently sold to Amazon.com for $800 million). But what about the local shoe store? Not so happy. Not so happy at all!

That local shoe store was Zappos’d. The name Zappos is derived from the Spanish word Zapatos (shoes). Based on the impact Zappos made to the shoe industry, I believe a new phrase has been invented: Getting Zappos’d.

Zappos. (ZA-pos) Verb. To crush one’s competitor. To eat another’s lunch. To overwhelm an adversary with so much innovation and creativity that they succumb to your will. To rewrite the rules of the game and render your opponent helpless. To demoralize your enemy via breakthrough innovation.

The thing is… this isn’t just happening in the world of shoes. In fact, nearly every industry is in the midst of massive upheaval. How many people do you know the Real Estate industry that have been Zappos’d? What about retail? Think how the world of consumer electronics is in a constant arms race for competitive advantage. Makes you wonder who’s going to Zappos who.

In this post-recession era where companies are hyper-focused on cost-cutting, efficiency gains, and “sticking to their knitting”, maybe it’s time that you focus on how you are going to Zappos your competitors. You can only cut so far, and at some point you need to innovate and grow to win.

My suggestion for this week… gather your best and brightest, start with a blank sheet of paper, and really brainstorm on what you can do to Zappos your industry. You’ll have fun and probably end up with a long list of possibilities. You can bet your competitors are doing the same thing. And at the end of the day, it is much better to be doing the Zappos’ing than getting totally Zappos’d.