Key to Customer Centricity: Takeaways from Alex Genov’s Zappos Keynote

Zappos Customer centricity

Last week marked the launch of the Adoreboard CX Academy at a special keynote and masterclass event with special guest Alex Genov from Zappos. Alex is head of customer research at Zappos, a US-based online shoe and clothing retailer who thrive in the world of customer experience so much so they hit over $2 billion in sales in its first 10 years and currently revenues $2 billion annually.

Alex delivered an engaging and inspiring keynote highlighting the importance of customer experience and how companies can learn from Zappos’ approach to create their own customer nirvana. Here are a few key takeaways from the event.

1. Customer Centricity is Key

Customer centricity leads to customer loyalty and customer loyalty leads to business results.

2. Customers are Not Statistics

One of the main factors that prevent companies from achieving customer loyalty and advocacy is that they don’t understand their customers as people. 

Large corporations tend to treat their customers as numbers. Alex called out an example “Does a family really have 2.5 children?”  When customers become statistics, things can start to go wrong.

Alex used the example of the United Airlines deboarding scandal of 2017 as an example of a company treating their customers as statistics and not human. United has around 150 million passengers each year, making it easy to treat customers as numbers rather than individuals. This was evident when they put their regulations above their customers’ needs, leading to incidents such as having to drag a passenger off a plane resulting in a social media disaster and an immediate drop in their stock value.

The key takeaway is that creating customer loyalty goes much smoother when businesses remember the key insight of customer centricity: customers are people.

Zappos place this insight at the heart of everything they do. From the culture and experiences, they create to the strategies they build.

3. Culture

Zappos claim the first step toward customer-centricity is “creating a culture that makes customers the heroes.”

Alex outlined Zappos’ 10 core values and encouraged businesses at the event to create their own values and stand by them.


Key Takeaway

It is important for businesses to identify clear team and company values. These values should be agreed on by the entire team and put into practice during every business activity.

4. Curiosity

The next key learning was the importance of being curious and understanding the customer. Alex emphasised the power of understanding your customer fully as it can help businesses establish their customer service goals and help you know when and how to reward loyalty.

In understanding customers, Zappos blended customer shopping transaction data with customer survey data.  Once they identified their most valuable customers they conducted phone interviews and home visits to understand their needs,  motivations and behaviours in context.

Key Takeaway

Align your business goals with your research questions to conduct both qualitative and quantitative customer research.

5. Structure

Alex then went on to highlight that the next step for customer centricity is structure and the elimination of silos. Organisational structures can create obscurity when team members are asked: “Who is our customer?” You may find that the marketing team may have a different answer than the development team and the analyst team might be different again.

Zappos embraces self-organisation, which enables them to organise around customer problems and priorities.

Key Takeaway

Share customer research and insights with the whole team, get them involved. This way there will be no question on who your customer is.

6. Strategy

Finishing up his keynote Alex highlighted the last step towards customer centricity is the linking of strategy, business priorities and customer needs. This comes when you combine all the previous steps and realise that there are distinct differences between customers and segments and that each segment may prove a different value to your business.

One size fits ONE not all

Customer personalisation is one of the top priorities for Zappos’ customer experience. Alex says this starts with the recognition that not all customers want tailored experiences based on their online habits, some want privacy.

Alex showed examples of how Zappos offer personalisation in different areas of the shopping experience such as:

  • Tailored images/ graphics on the website and mobile apps
  • Friendly and personalised customer service
  • Curated product selection

Alex’s key tips for customer centricity

  1. Talk to your customer
  2. Analyse your customer data
  3. Communicate the insights across the whole team


It is obvious that Zappos form emotional and human connections with their customers which drives loyalty and increases their willingness to pay. An example Alex used was that while customers generally may indicate a preference for lower prices, the truth is that they are willing to pay full price for the right product and outstanding customer service.

Alex’s keynote encompassed the Zappos ethos of creating a company culture that makes customers the heroes by cultivating a 360-degree customer understanding, eliminating silos and linking business priorities to customer needs.

Applying and tailoring these key actions to your business can have a huge impact on your customer experience which could increase your NPS. your profitability and customer advocacy. Not to mention your team could have a great time doing it.

Adoreboard Emotics can help businesses extract decision-ready insights from customer data both through online/offline commentary and customer surveys. If you would like to learn more about the CX academy or Emotics please get in touch here.

Trusted by Fortune 1000 companies
Get Your Edge

Book a personalised demo

Discover faster, deeper insights than you've ever had before