$10,327.00.

That’s how much I have spent with Zappos.com on shoes, handbags and accessories since 2004.  That’s in 92 discrete orders with an average order size of $112.00.

These numbers may seem ludicrous to you.  They don’t seem out of line to me because I love shoes but I hate shopping.

Look at the chart below showing order volume and average order size over time.  Over the past nine years, my order volume has accelerated in frequency, from a low of 2 orders in 2004 to a high of 16 orders in 2013.   Along with order volume, for the most part, average order size increased too.  As time went on, I increasingly ordered more, more expensive items.   (I can attribute the trend break in 2013 to the fact that in advance of a series of formal events, I bought several pair of super-cheap “fancy” shoes with the idea that I’d try them all and send back the ones I didn’t like.)

zappos

It looks like have a shoe fetish, right? I don’t just have a fetish for footwear; I have fetish for numbers too.  I’m not showing you that I returned 25 of my orders.  At first glance, my return rate might indicate that I am an unhappy shopper, being completely satisfied with only about three quarters of what I bought.  On the contrary, I’m fiercely loyal to the Zappos brand – probably more so than any other retail brand I use.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of places online where you can buy shoes, but Zappos has them all beat. Their website is simple.  It’s not flashy. There are not bells and whistles; it’s certainly not high design.  At first glance, all you find is a simple online shoe store, kind of like the Craigslist of shoes. They clearly don’t compete on price alone, either.  But Zappos has created one of the best customer service experiences ever, and it shows.   Free shipping every day.  Free returns for a year after purchase, no questions asked.  Recyclable packaging.  Friendly service in the way I want to access it, via email, chat or phone.

Zappos isn’t just selling shoes.  They’re selling a relationship.  They’re selling LOVE.

They make sure all their customers are happy, and Zappos’ superior customer service has become their brand. They’re fanatical about it.  The Zappos corporate culture, the message it conveys  and the relationship they have with customers IS the brand.

So, what about your brand.  What are you selling?  Are you just selling products and services, or are you selling a relationship?