How Zappos won Christmas while others goofed

While some retailers are now issuing apologies and refunds, the Amazon-owned shoe store performed the best in holiday delivery tests.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 27, 2013 3:28PM
Image: Santa Claus (© Corbis)By Clare O'Connor, Forbes

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh’s famous obsession with customer service paid off this holiday season. 

The Amazon-owned (AMZN) online shoe emporium came out on top in a Christmas delivery stress test performed by StellaService, a Nielsen-like ratings firm for internet shopping.

StellaService’s team of mystery shoppers set out to see which of the top online retailers met their promise of getting gifts under Christmas trees as long as orders were placed by their cut-off date.

The New York-based startup placed three identical orders with each of the 25 largest online stores, to be delivered in three separate U.S. regions: East, West and Midwest.

Of those 25 retailers, eight (32%) failed to deliver by Christmas in at least one of the three regions. Of all 75 orders StellaService placed, 12% missed the delivery estimate altogether.

Interestingly, all but one of these orders were shipped using UPS, which is the preferred carrier for most of the top 25 online shops.

So, how did Zappos win the day? The Las Vegas-based outfit, now the world’s largest online shoe store, provided customers with the latest cutoff, Dec. 23, and successfully delivered by Christmas in all three parts of the country.

Nordstrom (JWN) and Staples (SPLS) also listed Dec. 23 as their cutoff date, but both missed their delivery deadline in at least one of the three tested regions.

Other success stories included Apple (AAPL) and Pottery Barn, both of which extended their standard shipping times to allow shoppers a larger window to order gifts. Apple extended by a full day, with Pottery Barn moving its deadline from earlier in the day to midnight.

Notable failures included QVC, which didn’t specify a Christmas cutoff, forcing online shoppers to place orders by Dec. 13, much earlier than other sites. Electronics store Tiger Direct provided conflicting information on its site, according to StellaService, changing its cutoff date from Dec. 20 to Dec. 18, then back to Dec. 20.

Here are the full results of StellaService’s Christmas delivery stress-test:


More from Forbes
Dec 27, 2013 5:59PM
Notice how Christmas has just become all about how corporations do. The CEO's have successfully driven the Christ out of Christmas.
Dec 27, 2013 4:08PM

These are meaningless metrics to anyone with their act together. Just as one needn't worry about credit if they don't spend all that they make, one need not be concerned with Xmas deliveries if they ship by the beginning of the Twelve Days of Christmas.


And it was a good one -- hope yours was also.

Dec 27, 2013 7:41PM
Will we be saying Merry Corporatemas soon?
Dec 28, 2013 7:16PM

Hey a tip for you...


Every street, every house, every day.

And DESPITE the postmaster general' attempts to destroy this long-standing institution..  the USPS is in the BLACK.

Dec 27, 2013 6:51PM

The key point here is excellent customer service, you just do not get that as much anymore at brick and mortar stores.  I know when I order from amazon that everything will be hassle free, even with returns I do not have to leave my house or stand in lines because UPS comes automatically to pick it up.  I am also more likely to get the exchange I want if in a different size than I am at the store and the exchange is sent out immediately. My order history is always there so I never have to worry about receipts and the customer reviews on products are backed with proof that the person actually bought the item.


I do not think they will ever replace brick and mortars, there are always going to be things I need to see and feel before buying and will need immediately.   

Dec 30, 2013 9:41AM
avatar needs to merge with a pharmacy to get some advantage on this tablet business...
Dec 29, 2013 1:02AM
For those of you that hate the United States of America so much, then leave.

Go buy an island, make the rules and laws, develop your new country's currency and start your own printing presses. You can hail to yourself in front of a mirror every morning as the new President/King/Queen​/Dictator/God or whatever you want to call yourself as the ruler of your nation. Congratulations!

Go do it now and stop whining!
Dec 27, 2013 5:55PM
Anyone out there remember how Rockafeller cornered the railroad commodities and delivery services?  He owned the railroads, charged growers and distributers to ship their products, parked the rail cars packed with their stuff on a spur and left them to rot while shipping his commodities and other products down the line.  Pretty sure amazon is up to the same thing.
Dec 28, 2013 11:38AM
Amazon pays for positive reviews. Amazon has the most expensive pricing. I bought a tv at Best Buy for $1899. It was $2199 at Amazon. The wii U deluxe was $299 on eBay buy it now free ship and no sales tax. It was $329 plus tax at Amazon. A five pack of sr616 batteries was 3.29 on eBay buy it now free ship no sales tax. The same five pack was $6.59 on amazon. How can people continue to shop and overpay at Amazon. I have found every product I want cheaper everywhere else and I don't have to pay $79 a year for free shipping as everyone gives free shipping for free. Hulu and Crackle also give me free video for free. The only reason to shop amazon is if you want to overpay. eBay is the new amazon
Dec 27, 2013 11:47PM
I don't understand how a company that only makes cigarette lighters, like Zappos can even stay in business in this day and age.  Who even uses cigarette lighters anymore??
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