Zappos CEO Kedar Deshpande Reveals the Potential for Digital Experiences at the FN CEO Summit 2021

Kedar Deshpande, CEO of Zappos.com, made his FN Summit debut yesterday to talk about the future of retail.

The executive, who took the reins at the e-commerce company in August 2020, spoke about the vital importance of connecting with consumers through a unique shopping experience, and how Zappos continues to cultivate strong relationships with brands, customers and its employees.

“We know that if we build emotional relationships, our customers will continue to come back,” said Deshpande during his speech on day 1 of the virtual conference. “The industry’s best employees will continue to work with us and brands and want to work with us year after year.”

In terms of Zappos’ relationships with brands, Deshpande said the company strives to offer best-in-class services, such as comprehensive analytics, a guaranteed 24-hour response and the ability for brands to control their inventory and presentation.

“Brands are facing a lot of challenges right now,” he said. “E-commerce is terrific for convenience, but brands want to create that emotional connection with that customer. These emotional connections are possible through storytelling and creatives that are rooted in the brand-differentiating values.”

He pointed to two recent examples of ways the digital hub collaborated with brands to create unique shopping experiences:

L.L. Bean “Last fall, we launched a new relationship with outdoor apparel brand L.L. Bean. This was a moment of serendipity because the brand was looking to expand its reach through authentic relationships, and our customers began asking for more options for more comfortable clothing for exploring the great outdoors. On top of that, Zappos and L.L. Bean have many shared values when it comes to the environment, outdoors and doing good to share those values. We reimagined our traditional customer journey and innovated to present the L.L. Bean products across different categories and verticals. This challenged the traditional path for customers and resulted in more powerful customer engagement with the brand.”

M.M.LaFleur: “They create high function, high style workwear for women. Zappos and M.M.LaFleur wanted to shed light on the job loss among women in 2020, referred to as the “she-cession.” This spring, we partnered on a new initiative dedicated to American women’s return to work.”

Beyond its joint initiatives with brands, Zappos has taken steps to improve the shopping journey for all consumers by launching curated portals that speak to their particular interests and tastes. Among its notable platforms are The_Ones, dedicated to female sneaker lovers; The Style Room, an editorial experience featuring premier men’s and women’s fashion brands; and Vrsnl, a new destination that blends luxury, contemporary and streetwear. Meanwhile, the company continues to prioritize its inclusive Zappos Adaptive product site, as well as its philanthropically-minded Zappos for Good shopping portal.

“These verticals are just the beginning. We are trying to drive shopping boutiques that are experiential and not just transactional,” said Deshpande. “We believe that brands will be more successful when they can showcase their values and tell great stories through creative partnerships.”

Zappos also has been leaning into its set of core values to navigate the past year, particularly its No. 1 value: to “Deliver WOW Through Service.”

Deshpande explained, “What does WOW mean? It means we meet the customer’s emotional need beyond what they would imagine. And by serving the untapped emotional needs of our customers, we’re able to build that kind of personal emotional connection.”

During the pandemic, the Zappos customer service team identified a need among shoppers who were unable to venture out to their UPS stores to send back returns. So the company began offering a free UPS pickup option, which has been rapidly adopted. Zappos also implemented another service called “Refund on scan,” where customers are refunded for their returns as soon as the package is picked up or dropped off in a UPS location.

“We will continue to invest in these customer WOWs,” said Deshpande. “Because we have seen that what we used to offer as an industry benchmark of free shipping and free returns is now becoming an industry standard.”

Summit sponsors include presenting sponsor PayPal and event sponsors Aetrex, Caleres, FDRA, K-Swiss, Riskified, SkyPad, Sperry, Two Ten and Zappos.

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