CEO tony
CEO Tony Hsieh

Research Question:

How has Zappos’ corporate culture driven its social media efforts in building a brand community?

Introduction Inc. (Zappos), is an online shoe and clothing retailer known for its commitment to providing incredible customer service to create an extremely loyal customer base (Roggio, 2011). Customer satisfaction begins with a business’ employees, for a customer will love and trust a company more when the company is well loved by its employees (Faeth, 2015).

Zappos Corporate Culture

Zappos’ culture emphasizes on high employee engagement – through providing a family-like working environment that is fun and empowering, as well as creating and maintaining a high level of customer engagement – through the provision of assistance and answers to enquiries driven by the main goal of achieving customer satisfaction.

According to Frei & Morriss (2010), what sets CEO Hsieh and his team apart from their competition is their deep awareness that Zappos’ culture is its most important asset. Given that “Service is a by-product of culture” (Zappos’ former chief financial officer as cited in Frei & Morriss, 2010) and that Zappos has a reputation for delivering exceptional customer service, it can thus be inferred that Zappos’ culture of achieving high level of customer satisfaction is not merely a vision set by top management but also deeply entrenched and practiced by its employees.

In return, Zappos is rewarded with satisfied and loyal customers, which translate into positive business results that propelled Zappos from a start-up to a company valued at $1.2 billion within a short span of nine years (Hsieh, 2010). With the employees’ strong awareness and acknowledgement that Zappos’ success is highly attributed to their culture, Zappos’ culture is further reinforced and its manifestation can be observed through its communication to and with customers across its different social media platforms.

Zappos’ Corporate Culture and its influences

Our research aims to determine how Zappos’ corporate culture has led to their social media efforts and success in building a brand community and how they can further strengthen and expand that brand community.

Specifically, we will examine how Zappos’ corporate culture has influenced their  1.emphasis on creating real relationships with their customers, and on 2.empowering employees as powerful brand ambassadors. This is based on the important underlying assumption that customer loyalty and satisfaction are better achieved when employees also love the company, which is the argument postulated by Faeth (2015). In addition, we will also analyse how we can 3.enhance Zappos’ brand image by increasing awareness of their corporate social responsibility efforts.

Ultimately, we will analyse how positive engagement of the 3 above factors (in bold) have affected Zappos’ business outcomes respectively, in terms of impacting customers’ behaviour, increasing employees’ satisfaction and engagement and in boosting the overall image of Zappos.

Research Method

While Zappos employs many social media platforms for their customer engagement activities, we will focus our analysis on Zappos’ use of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. This is because these social media platforms most clearly show the two-way interaction between Zappos and its customers, which will allow us to better understand how Zappos’ culture is manifested, thereby facilitating us in conducting a more meaningful analysis. On top of this, Synthesio, which is used to find out customers’ sentiment, and references to literature review will also be used to supplement our research and analysis.

Value of Study

The value of this study is to explore the drivers of Zappos’ success in their social media use, to identify the social media platforms that have room for improvement and thereafter, to recommend suitable social media strategies that will support Zappos in sustaining its competitive advantages and continue to be the best online service leader and in building their brand community.

For instance, in our analysis of Zappos’ use on social media, we have found that Zappos has very high level of engagement on Twitter and moderate level of engagement on Facebook and comparatively lower engagement on Instagram. We have identified that there is room for improvement for Zappos to better leverage on the benefits that Instagram brings and also to further tap on the large following of 2m fans they have on Facebook. As a result, we will be proposing 3 strategies via Instagram and Facebook to help Zappos increase its level of engagement on these two social media platforms.

zapponians at work
Zapponians at work

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