The strategies of Amazon and Zalando could not be more different from each other when it comes to apps. Amazon is working hard to become a platform provider after missing the boat on mobile. Besides Amazon’s own apps on iOS and Android Amazon is heavily investing in devices and its own Fire OS (a fork of Android).
Both strategies make a lot of sense for each company.
But these strategies are going at different layers in the general consumer tech stack.
Here’s a thought experiment. When Amazon is building out its device portfolio to make sure to become a platform player and Zalando and other online retailers increasingly build their entire businesses on apps, how, exactly, might this play out?
Here are some questions to ponder.
- How would the shift in power manifest itself if Amazon gets a significant market share in, say, connected home platforms or the smart TV? Will it be like on the Fire TV, with Amazon content and services front and center and third-party apps in second place at best?
- In what scenario would it make sense for Amazon to throw apps by other online retailers out of the Fire app store (similar to throwing Apple TV and Chromecast out of its shop)? Would it be an antitrust issue with apps? In what market constellations would this a.) even matter to other online retailers and b.) become an antitrust issue?
- If smartphones and their apps connect everything and every other device is secondary will it even matter to other online retailers that Amazon might become a strong player in the next wave of consumer platforms? Without a strong smartphone presence, Amazon might not matter much in this aspect to strategies by Zalando and others. Or, smartphones or not, Amazon can provide a superior user experience because it controls more parts of the stack.
- Will it be good or bad for online retailers if iOS and Android remain the only important platforms? Imagine, for example, a world where Amazon enables a retail ecosystem around its devices and services on which other retailers can grow as well. (Similar to AWS and the Amazon Marketplace in some respect.)
- A retailer like Zalando or Amazon is by definition a horizontally aligned company: Reach is important, hence you have to be on all popular platforms. What does that mean for Amazon’s device strategy, which is decisively a vertical approach? How will Amazon balance its apps for iOS and Android with an increasingly rich offering on Amazon’s own platforms? Either Amazon users are better off using Amazon devices or there is basic feature parity between Amazon devices and Amazon apps on other platforms. It can’t be both. What would make more sense for Amazon?
- What is keeping Amazon from deploying a platform/app approach similar to Zalando’s? Especially for fashion where Amazon is not as strong as it could be, interface iterations and UX experiments would make a lot of sense for Amazon.
- Has Zalando a shot at making apps so popular that they become the default for fashion shopping for a lot of people? Meaning, could Zalando apps become so popular that no platform provider could exclude them? (Like no one would exclude a Facebook app.)
- What insights can be drawn from WeChat?
- What strategic partnerships would make sense for online retailers to prevent a strong Amazon platform and to gain more access to the operating system platform layer without having to gamble for a platform provider position itself? Besides the obvious ones like CyanogenMod.
In a world of websites and browsers all of this did not matter because Amazon did not and would not own the majority or even a meaningful market share of browser usage with a hypothetical Amazon browser. And even if Amazon would have, it would not have been able to change the underlying interaction model1 in a dramatic way.
But in todays world apps -on mobile and on other platforms- increase the capabilities of the internet far beyond the web.2 How these capabilities will manifest themselves on the market is a topic that we will be exploring for years to come. It just started.
More on Zalando’s and Amazon’s strategies for a world of apps:
- MOVMNT: Zalando Launches Mobile Fashion Outlet App
- Zipcart: Zalando Launches Mobile App For Same-Day Delivery In Berlin
- Why Zalando’s Robert Gentz Decided To “Rethink The Entire Business”
- Zalando: “We Want To Become An Open Fashion Platform”
- Amaze, The ‘Tinder For Fashion’, Brings Fashion Data To A New Level
- Why a Heavy Expansion of Amazon Prime Instant Video Makes Sense
- From AWS IoT Button to Launchpad Amazon Is Increasing Its Options
- Echo is just like a store for Amazon & third-party retailers help spreading it now
- ‘QVC 2.0’ and beyond: Why Fire TV is Amazon’s most important device
- Amazon doubling down on hardware, talks about it endlessly in earnings release
- Amazon’s Alexa Fund Invests in Smart Home Communication Device Triby