$11,629.29.

That’s not what I owe in payments on my car.  Nor is that my Central Austin property tax bill. That’s how much money I’ve spent on shoes at Zappos.com in the past 10 years.

About a year ago, I did a blog post about my love for Zappos. Since some time has passed, and my taste in shoes has become decidedly more selective and expensive, I felt it was time for me to give you an update.

Check out this year’s Zappos order chart below.  You can see, while my 2013 average order size went down, my total number of orders went up. Apparently, during 2013, I was buying LOTS of cheap shoes.  I have no explanation for this other than perhaps I went on a flip-flop binge. I do live in Austin, so it’s possible.

ZapposChart

Looking back on 2014, the total number of orders remained the same (16), but the average order size when up by more than $30!  What I have to show for that is a couple of pair of “couture” shoes (ask me to show you the blue suede Ted Baker stilettos; they’re fabulous) and a handful of athletics, trendy open-toed booties and a variety of more sensible styles.

To be fancy, I added a trend line so you can see how my lifetime value as a customer is trending over time: it’s increasing at a pretty good rate (I think the Zappos team loves me).

So, besides the obvious fact that I love shoes, what else can you take away from this?

As I wrote in last year’s blog post, there are lots of places online to buy shoes – many of them less expensive than Zappos.  And, believe it or don’t, there are dozens of convenient brick-and-mortar places at which I can buy shoes and even wear them home the same day.  However, I still choose to buy most of my shoes at Zappos because I love what they stand for.  I love how they deliver service.  I love how I experience their brand.

You could say that I love WOW, and that’s what bonds me to them year after year, even when there are less expensive, more convenient choices.

Here’s something that comes directly from Zappos’ website:

At Zappos, Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing With WOW.
WOW is such a short, simple word, but it really encompasses a lot of things. To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means doing something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver. We are not an average company, our service is not average, and we don’t want our people to be average. We expect every employee to deliver WOW.  Whether internally with co-workers or externally with our customers and partners, delivering WOW results in word of mouth. Our philosophy at Zappos is to WOW with service and experience, not with anything that relates directly to monetary compensation (for example, we don’t offer blanket discounts or promotions to customers). We seek to WOW our customers, our co-workers, our vendors, our partners, and in the long run, our investors.

Delivering WOW through service is a core tenet of Zappos’ culture. And Zappos culture – not shoes – is their brand.  In fact, since last year’s blog post, Zappos has launched several additional retail categories on their austere e-commerce site, and that’s got my attention.  With the addition of beauty, sporting goods and home products, Zappos is my first go-to place when shopping online for anything.  With free overnight shipping (both ways) and no-questions-asked returns up to 1-year later, how could I ever pass up an opportunity to check with Zappos first?  I’d say that I’m irrationally loyal to Zappos.  That means that I’d check there first for product availability before shopping anywhere else.  Zappos and I, we have a tight bond.

There are many companies with core values, but most read the same.  Can you guess which company belongs to these?

  • Customer Service
  • Quality
  • Empathy
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • Responsibility
  • Teamwork

Of course you can’t – because they’re too generic; they aren’t memorable or ownable; they aren’t part of a company’s very culture; they aren’t this company’s brand. The best core values are ones that are remarkable and define how customers experience a company’s brand.  They have the following characteristics:

  • They are actionable
  • They describe how you act as a company
  • They are visibly integrated with how a company does business
  • They are aligned with what’s important to customers
  • They are used to attract and retain the best talent
  • They have support from all levels of the company

…and most importantly, they aren’t platitudes.  They are unique to a company’s beliefs.

Many companies have core values, but don’t really commit to them. They usually sound more like something you’d read in a press release or on a plaque in a company’s lobby.  Your core values are part of the DNA – or the story – of your brand.

So what core values are you willing to commit to?