Zappos Is Turning the Clock Back on Its Website for Its 20th Birthday

The brand is going back to 1999

Image showing Zappos' 1999 homepage
For just one day, the Zappos website will look like it's 1999. Zappos
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

Zappos, the company that made free shipping and returns the norm in ecommerce, is turning 20.

To celebrate, Zappos is unrolling a series of marketing initiatives to bring old and new customers into the fold. To start with, the company is reverting its website to its original 1999 look on July 19 for one day only, bringing back a 110% price-match guarantee on August 12 and offering several items for $19.99. Zappos is also partnering with seven brands for limited-edition exclusive collections. While most of this is a play on nostalgia, Joseph Grusman, general manager of ecommerce marketing at Zappos, said it’s part of Zappos taking a 360-degree approach to marketing and attempting to reach different parts of the customer funnel.

“When we started, our value propositions were what really set us apart, free shipping and free returns—that was largely unheard of back in 1999,” Grusman said. “So now, we’re tasked with one-upping ourselves. It’s coming up with new value propositions.”

As part of its birthday celebration, Zappos is collaborating with seven brands to roll out limited-edition shoes each month through the rest of the year, and, in some cases, events tied to them. To kick it off, Zappos worked with Birkenstock to create 225 sandals in emerald green. On July 22, Zappos is unrolling its second collaboration with Asics, to debut a rosé shoe, and, tied to that, is hosting a Rosé 5K on August 3 in Temecula, Calif. Other brands Zappos is working with include Toms, Sam Edelman, New Balance, Brooks and UGG. Not every style will have overt Zappos branding; for example, Sam Edelman will have Zappos branding on the dust bag.

Although a lot of these partnerships are tied to the brand’s birthday, Grusman explained Zappos is also using the opportunity to track customer loyalty, and the company’s trying to capitalize on the industry trends of limited shoe collaborations.

“It seems like the footwear industry is definitely about the collaborations, and we definitely sense the industry going that way, so we want to be on the forefront of working with these epic brands,” Grusman said.

As Grusman looks at the next 20 years, he said personalization will play a key part in the company’s future, making sure to surface the right creative and products at the right time. Other aspects include looking more into sustainability, such as using recycled plastic in shoes and figuring out ways to better service different groups of consumers. For example, Zappos set up an experiment for runners in January, in which the company offered free coaches to anyone who signed up (with Brooks, the running shoe company, as a partial sponsor of the program). The brand has also specifically worked on reaching runners through other means, such as creating Zappos Running, which is filled with running articles, and has since applied the same approach to kids and big-and-tall customer bases.

“We can’t rest on our laurels,” Grusman said.

@itstheannmarie Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.