I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about the divergent nature of so many companies: one company finds itself under threat from completely unexpected quarters as those other companies diverge out of their established domains. (I prefer Gary Hamel’s word “domain” rather than industry because, as he points out, the boundaries are so blurry today that thinking in terms of industry or category is falsely comforting and limiting.) This one is a doosey: Zappos is going into the brand consulting business.
Over the past few years, executives from dozens of companies, including Southwest Airlines and Best Buy, as well as ordinary customers, have made the trek to see its operations up close. The tour has undeniable Zappos touches: each department has its own greeting, and in-house motivational guru Dr. Vik has visitors sit in a throne for a Polaroid snapshot.
Now the company hopes to turn the intense interest in its culture and approach to business into a moneymaker. This week, it plans to roll out Zappos Insights, a subscription video service that lets companies ask questions about the Zappos way and get answers from actual Zappos employees. It will charge $39.95 per month for subscriptions.
The Zappos Insights site is up, but is mostly locked down for subscribers. About the only thing I could find public is the reading list. Overall things look pretty sparse, and they don’t have much preview material so you can get a sense of what you’re paying $39.95 a month for, or how well their Zappos-centric experiences scale to other businesses. But if it’s like buying shoes from Zappos they’ll have a pretty flexible subscription policy so you can try it out without much risk.
Still, who would have thought that brand agencies would find themselves competing against a shoe retailer? Sure, Zappos advice is not going to be tailored in the same way, but heck it’s several zeroes cheaper and for the “Fortune One Million” size companies they are targeting, something adequate is better than nothing. And that’s the very definition of a disruptive play.
Hat tip: Steve Portigal
Just saw that Joshua Michele Ross at O’Reilly has written about Zappos also offering a syndication of an end-to-end customer service system also:
I am fascinated by what I see as Zappos’ ongoing evolution from a simple, online retailer to a leading online innovator. A few months back I wrote about Zappos pioneering what I called “Experience Syndication” with their Powered by Zappos (PBZ) service. In brief, PBZ syndicates the end-to-end value of shopping with Zappos - from the online store experience to shipping, to returns, to the call center - everything. Clarks Shoes, Stuart Weitzman and many other online sites are providing a customer experience entirely syndicated by Zappos.