Zappos is putting an e-commerce twist on holiday charitable giving.
The Amazon.com Inc.-owned shoe retailer is soliciting consumers to donate toys for its “Shaq-A-Claus” gift-giving program, which it is running with retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal.
Here’s how the toy drive works: A consumer buys a toy, prints off a pre-paid shipping label and sends the toy to Zappos’ headquarters in Nevada. Once there, Zappos will wrap the toy and then send it to one of four Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Shaq himself will distribute the toys in person at the Boys and Girls Club located in Nevada.
Zappos is anticipating consumers will donate 9,000 toys and, as of Cyber Monday (Nov. 26), shoppers have requested about 4,200 shipping labels, says Stevie Bautista, Zappos’ “Karma Kommando.” Bautista oversees Zappos For Good, which focuses on Zappos’ employee engagement and wellness and community engagement. His team of five employees coordinated this holiday initiative along with similar charitable events throughout the year, such as a school supply drive.
All Zappos employees, including executives, are required to volunteer for 10 hours of “holiday helper” time every year, Bautista says. With nearly 1,500 employees, Zappos can power the Shaq-A-Claus program using these employee hours, without having to hire any additional team members, he says.
“No matter what, from the CEO to the person on the phone, everyone has 10 hours of giving back,” Bautista says.
Of the 10 hours, five of them are typically spent on the phone fielding customer service calls, which helps employees “connect with customers,” Bautista says. The additional five hours can be spent in other volunteering capacities, such as serving in a soup kitchen, and this year the Shaq-A-Claus program is an additional option. Employees can sort the donated toys based on age, wrap toys, label them or help Shaq deliver them at the Nevada Boys and Girls Club. To keep the operation organized, the retailer has an app where employees can sign up for their helper time.
Employees sort and wrap toys at Zappos’ headquarters specially converted into a toy drive location.
Zappos has been working on the Shaq-A-Claus program for the past two months. The web-only retailer budgeted up to $100,000 for this toy drive, which includes paying the shipping costs for all the toy donations to get to Zappos’ headquarters and then to the Boys and Girls Clubs. Zappos also matched all toy donations consumers made on Black Friday and Cyber Monday with a toy. In addition, if Zappos does not reach 9,000 toys, it will buy the remaining toys for the Boys and Girls Clubs it has committed to, Bautista says.
In addition, Zappos “crowd sources” some of its budget from other Zappos departments that may have extra money leftover in their budgets before the end of the year, Bautista says. For example, each department has a team-building budget per month and may choose to donate December’s portion to the toy drive.
Based on experience from its school supply drive for the Kids in Need Foundation, Zappos found that shoppers who donated purchased more than one item per shipping label. So, within those 4,200 boxes, Zappos hopes there is more than one toy in some of them. It is accepting toys until Dec. 10. Toys received after that will be saved for the following holiday season for Shaq to donate via his community relationships.
Zappos is letting consumers know about the toy drive via social media and news outlets, and Shaq is promoting it as well.
Zappos-parent Amazon.com Inc. also has a digital-age twist on charitable giving this holiday season. Shoppers with a smart speaker powered by Amazon’s voice-activated software Alexa—such as the Echo—can say “Alexa, donate to Toys for Tots.” Alexa will then recommend a gift from the Toys for Tots charity list, and shoppers confirm the purchase. Amazon then ships the donated gift to Toys for Tots.
Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500.