Robert Gentz, co-founder and CEO of Zalando, spoke with Wired UK about Zalando’s ambitions:
In short, we want to become an open fashion platform and eventually the number one tech company in Europe.
That’s no mean feat, so it’s so important for us to remain agile and innovative in everything we do. We’ve seen Google and Facebook become the flagbearers for tech in the United States, but nobody in Europe has taken on the baton to anywhere near the same level.
The opportunity is there. But the immediate plan is to continue our shift from being an online retailer to become Europe’s largest online platform for fashion.
Those are not empty promises.
Zalando promotes autonomy for both individuals and teams. As individuals, we pick our teams, create our own personal and professional development paths (we call them “tours of mastery”), and give each person a voice. At the team level, we self-organize. It’s how we foster trust and respect.
To become “an open fashion platform and eventually the number one tech company in Europe” Zalando began in the first half of 2015 to enable the first parts of its platform. At its capital market day in March 2015 Zalando presented the Brand Solutions (customizable brand pages on Zalando with statistics for brands), Advertising Services and Curated Shopping. Unfortunately the accompanying PDF documents seem to be offline.
Obviously, the current platform approach for Zalando includes the capability to build apps on top of it:
Zalando’s vision goes beyond mobile apps as a user interface playground. Christoph Lange from Zalando talked at this year’s K5 konference (German) about Zalando’s long term plans, which include becoming a major platform player in brick-and-mortar fashion retail as well.
Lange’s example at the conference: If someone finds a fashion item on Instagram. This item is in stock at Zalando but also in stock in a local store. The long term goal is that Zalando’s fashion network will be able to connect customer, local store and logistics provider (Uber) to bring the item as fast as possible to the user.2
Zalando’s grand plan is to become a fashion aggregator, a multi-sided platform. Zalando wants to become the major middle man platform for any conceivable way to find and buy fashion items. That is a lofty goal. And it makes a lot of sense, given the internet’s market dynamics.
Zalando’s own event and its open source strategy and startup programs have to be seen in this context as well as its failed attempt to make Instagram photos shoppable.