Jeff Espersen, general manager of merchandising for Zappos.com, sat down with FN features editor Jennie Bell on Monday at the FN Summit in New York to talk about what the e-tailer is focused on this year and beyond. Here are some highlights:
• A new partnership with NFL player Ronnie Stanley: The Baltimore Ravens player can wear any brand on Zappos’ site, on or off the field. In addition to partnering with the company on charity initiatives, Stanley also wants to understand the ins and outs of the business. “He’s a local Vegas kid and is interested in learning about entrepreneurship,” Espersen said.
• A Roc Nation collaboration: Stanley is just one of Roc Nation’s many partners, and the e-tailer is on the hunt for more unique deals. Already, it has forged ties with social star DJ Khaled, who has been surprising Zappos customers in cities where Beyoncé is making tour stops. (Khaled is opening for Beyoncé, and it’s just one of his many projects.) “He goes around in [a] van and hand delivers our product,” Espersen noted. “It’s positive press for him and us.”
• Feel-good pet campaigns: When Zappos rolled out its Pawlidayz campaign last November, it had no idea the response would be so overwhelming. The company sponsored free dog and cat adoptions with the Best Friends Animal Society. “We had 152 million [organic] impressions, and 6,300 pets found homes,” the executive said. “It wasn’t about selling and we are trying to do more things like that … A lot of people like their pets more than their kids.”
• Holacracy revolution continues: “It’s hard to explain; you have to live it,” Espersen said of the company’s new corporate strategy, where a traditional hierarchy is eliminated. “It’s been a huge learning curve for the whole company.” Espersen added that CEO Tony Hsieh is largely hands-off and wants employees to figure things out on their own. “We weren’t making decisions fast enough,” he said, adding that it typically takes five to seven years for holacracy to work.