User Experience and Building Trust: Amazon vs. Zappos

Great user experience is all about establishing trust, then continually strengthening it. In Susan’s case, Amazon broke her trust (literally):

I quickly found what I wanted and ordered with “one click”. Two days
later they arrive — each broken into little pieces.  Next I go online
to let them know and get a refund. You can’t talk to anyone when you
have a problem at Amazon, and the refund process is NOT easy. I have to
find the right form online (took several tries). I have to fill out the
form correctly (several more tries). I have to print labels (they want
the broken dishes back). I have to send the dishes back separately. One
has to go back via UPS and the other through the US mail (why is

This highlights the difference between the Amazon model and the Zappos model (even though they’re now technically one company): the former focuses on getting you the right product quickly, the latter focuses on building an extraordinarily satisfying experience with you.

And the difference is massive. Amazon is effectively the Wal-Mart of the web; it’s probably the cheapest place to find stuff, and they’re good at distribution. But their advantage is derived from scale, not service. Zappos is focused on building each customer’s lifetime value (LTV) through exceptional service; their advantage is from repeat transactions and customer evangelism.

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