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Zappos vs Lands’ End: Who are you talking about now?

imageIt was only 3 years ago that we were talking about the Lands’ End famous no-questions-asked return policies. They were the one brand that symbolized amazing customer service.

imageLands’ End would take anything back. You could wear a bikini to a paintball convention and return it because it was stained and didn’t provide good protection.  Occasionally you’d pay postage, but that was it.

Now we talk about Zappos. Constantly. Same offer, same friendliness. Much, much more brand awareness.

Why aren’t we talking about Lands’ End any more?  Not much has changed on their end. My theories:

  1. Zappos upped the game. Unlimited returns with free shipping is remarkable. Paying for shipping is no longer good enough.
  2. They aren’t part of the conversation. Lands’ End has completely missed the social media revolution. No twitter, no blog — nobody talking about them.
  3. Word of mouth is missing. There is not a single “tell a friend” or “share this” link on their site. If you don’t ask for referrals, you don’t get them.

Lessons: If you don’t ask for word of mouth, you don’t get it. If you don’t join the conversation, you get ignored. If there is nothing for fans to link to, they’ll link to someone else.

This makes me sad. I hate to see a beloved brand fade away because they forgot why people love them. But if you ignore the fans who love you, they’re going to fall in love with someone else.

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  1. Kevin Hillstrom December 26, 2009 at 12:19 pm #

    Outside of a lot of discounting this fall (25% off plus free shipping), is there financial data to support the thesis that a change in buzz between Lands’ End and Zappos correlates with a decrease in sales at Lands’ End?

  2. Adrian December 27, 2009 at 12:15 am #

    My problem with Land’s End is that they pester the crap out of me. I don’t think hardly a day goes by that I don’t get an E-mail or a catalog from them. It’s just annoying. If they’d just lower their prices a bit, they’d get a lot more of my business than bugging me all the time.

  3. Andy Sernovitz December 27, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    I don’t have any financial data, but the brand impact (always harder to quantify) seems very clear — no one talks about LE any more. They were held up as the best of the best, a constant example to emulate. Now we do the same with Zappos.

    I’m not saying they are doing anything wrong or different. Just that they lost their place in the conversation.

  4. Russell December 27, 2009 at 8:26 pm #

    You need to realize that Sears owns Lands End and their marketing efforts are somewhat diluted with most of the focus going to other brands / entities.

    Zappos was built as an internet company from the start. I dont think Sears will make it to 2020.


  5. Eric Brown December 28, 2009 at 8:08 am #

    Andy, Good Morning
    This really is an excellent example of position change, right before our marketing eyes, and Tony pulled it off with ease. The fact that Zappos was also purchased by someone virtually in the same business is also fascinating.

    While I am a complete Social Media/Word of Mouth Marketing Junkie, bottom line is Land’s End was out marketed, on multiple fronts by a start up. Whatever thye continued to do, just because they have always done it, looking back was a mistake. Pretty interesting,

  6. Stacey Symonds December 28, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    Hi Andy – Very interesting post. I wonder if this has to do with how we target vs how targets and where their customers are spending time vs ours. You may want to check out what Lands’ End has been doing lately on Facebook and Twitter, targeted to our primary customer segment. We have over 206,000 fans currently on Facebook ( (I couldn’t find Zappos on Facebook), and regularly hold “Twitter parties” to talk to our customers are issues that they are passionate about such as kids clothing, back to school planning and knitting to support an ambitious campaign that we have to knit over 20,000 hats for people who need them this winter. We also had two other very interesting viral campaigns this fall: one for the Big Warm Up where a personalized viral video was shared and viewed by millions of people and generated coat donations nationally of over 33,000 coats. The second is the currently running MyCanvas( which is a mash-up using social media that you can share with friends and is supporting the launch of our new line Lands’ End Canvas. Not to say either zappos or our approach is right or wrong (although sales and growth of the business are certainly great indicators!), but we are doing our best to make sure we are connecting with and satisfying our customers where they spend time and they seem to be responding even in these difficult economic times.

  7. Eric Brown December 28, 2009 at 11:24 am #

    Stacey, While this isn’t my post, I do want to acknowledge you for “Showing Up” and participating in this conversation. I sure wasn’t aware of the various initiatives that Land’s End was doing, and some of them sound pretty cool.

    All that being said, do you feel that land’s End has lost a edge to Zappo’s?

  8. Stacey Symonds December 28, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    Eric – I would have to say the jury’s still out for both companies. I am really interested to see how Zappo’s does with adding apparel/accessories to their site and keeping the same value proposition of free ship/free return which is quite expensive. On our side, we will be working ongoing to understand the impact of social media on our business results. Growth of our business and connecting with our customers are a big focus for us but will let the public be the judge of that by voting with their hard-earned dollars.

  9. Eric Gohs December 28, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    Some great points, Andy. Full disclosure: I work for Lands’ End in the Internet Marketing department. I agree that Zappos has done some amazing things – with Twitter in particular – as it relates to customer service. I shop there myself and follow Tony for professional tips/uses of social media. Here at Lands’ End we’ve been working social media/sharing features into all appropriate campaigns for the better part of 2009. Facebook has been the place where we’re most active with nearly 210,000 Fans to date and a team of people from customer service, PR, merchandising and marketing who post and respond daily. We also use Twitter actively (@LandsEndChat) to “listen” for customer service issues we can address in real-time as well as engage followers with the 1-hour topical twitter parties – we’ve actually trended #landsend in the top ten on most party days. Where we certainly have room to grow – as you highlight – is creating those shareable hooks on our shopping site rather than just on external platforms and microsites. You’ll see more from us in the coming year on that front. We have a lot of passionate brand advocates and amplifying their voice is certainly a goal of ours.

  10. Eric Brown December 28, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    Stacey and EricG Thank you both for responding.
    The fact that you did, and that your response was straight forward, not defensive and was informative inspired a post about it!

    Thanks for sharing and Good Luck on your Marketing Initiatives in 2010


  1. Digital - December 28, 2009

    […] recent article Land’s End Verses Zappo’s caught my interest, first just from the point that Andy was making, What happened to Land’s […]

  2. Blinders | Social Commentary: Social Media, Online Marketing, Podcasting, and Your Business - January 14, 2010

    […] I recently saw a post that was all about how “Lands’ End isn’t visible.” Blinders completely. As of this writing Land’s End has 250,000+ Facebook fans and quite honestly a different demographic than Zappos, with 29k or so. Yah. 29k. On Facebook, at least, Lands’ End has almost NINE TIMES more fans than Zappos. […]

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