Zalando: “We Want To Become An Open Fashion Platform”

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 has started to reorganize itself this year into autonomous and semi-autonomous teams to be more agile when it comes to tech development.1 In the words of the company:

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.

(Here is an introduction to Zalando’s project management framework.)

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.

NewImage

Obviously, the current platform approach for Zalando includes the capability to build apps on top of it:

Zalando APIs and apps

Amaze is the first app build on Zalandos new platform. It is also a perfect show case for the potential of single purpose apps.

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 platform

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.


  1. We will have to wait and see wether this will lead to chaos or a large company being able to be as fast as a startup. Facebook seems to be the role model for Zalando here. 
  2. Lange said the long term goal is a delivery time of 30 minutes. I’ll let that stand here uncommented. 

11 comments

  1. […] More deetails on Zalando’s platform ambitions can be found here: Zalando: “We Want To Become An Open Fashion Platform” […]

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  2. […] Zalando is working hard on building out a rich, diverse mobile app portfolio to foster its fashion platform goal. […]

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  3. […] as a platform can also be a threat to local online fashion retailers. Once brands establish relationships within […]

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  4. […] big question though is now how exactly logistics will evolve for a company that is on the verge of becoming a platform with a lot of different partners and modus operandi (like drop-shipments with […]

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  5. […] the Instagram initiative and, implicitly, Zalando turning into a fashion platform with all kinds of apps by Zalando and third-parties. When you’re already big and you see the […]

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  6. […] consider again, against this background, Zalando’s ambitions to become an online fashion retail platform. This is the context for Zalando’s ambitions and the potential position the company might […]

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  7. […] Zalando: “We Want To Become An Open Fashion Platform” […]

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  8. […] Zalando: “We Want To Become An Open Fashion Platform” […]

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  9. […] Zalando: “We Want To Become An Open Fashion Platform” […]

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  10. […] But I am still not certain if this approach, combined with explosive growth in staff numbers and a radical business shift towards a platform approach, might not turn out to be a ticking time […]

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  11. […] Zalando: “We Want To Become An Open Fashion Platform” […]

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