Zalando’s new mobile app Fleek is an interesting case study in what is possible in online retail today. Fleek combines mobile app, marketplace, social information architecture and an API based approach connecting to the ‘outside world’ of social networks.
Set up as a marketplace app, Fleek eventually will open up to other retailers, and in the process the app will become an intermediary between brands and retailers on one side and customers on the other side.
This is important because Fleek is kind of a social trojan horse:
Imagine an ardent fan of a top brand, say Adidas. They want to stay on top of everything their brand is making, what new style the brand may be pushing, what it is communicating online etc. Until now the only way for our fan to keep in touch was to follow the brand on the social networks the brand chose to use to interact with its fans.
Now, you may want to know what is going on at Adidas, but you don’t necessary need Adidas in your Instagram or you don’t even use Instagram. And what about other social networks where Adidas may post other stuff? You just want to buy cool, trendy fashion from your favorite fashion brand.
Fleek can be the gateway to just that. Fleek can be an aggregator. It can bring all the important stuff together. (And in the process, Zalando/Fleek doesn’t even need to produce that specific high-quality content itself.)
For people liking a fashion brand like Adidas, that may be a good but not a great unique selling point. But imagine now a new up-and-coming niche fashion brand in the same situation. The more niche it gets the bigger the unique selling point of Fleek for its users and the brands.
That is a good starting point to become the “ultimate source of inspiration”.
Add other ways (like aggregating and re-using the data generated by Fleek itself, à la Amaze) into the mix and it becomes quite clear what kind of signal-to-noise ratio Fleek may get to.
The niche / trendsetter aspect (or the Long Tail) of Fleek is also why the marketplace approach fits right into Fleek’s concept.
Small boutique fashion brands could use Fleek in the future to sell directly with minimum overhead. Zalando will (eventually) provide the same services like ‘fullfillment by Amazon’ for a marketplace like Fleek. At the same time a small fashion company can use the same activity it is using to engage with fans on social networks as signals in the shop itself; which gets generated by ‘following’ a brand on Fleek. Add other retailers to the mix, and Fleek may in the long run have every item for sale users will come across through its social content, no matter how niche it gets.
If Zalando can pull this off it is going to be a great proposition for brands big and small.
The API question: Can Fleek maintain access to the social networks’ APIs? This is the big question here, I think.
Essentially, Fleek is trying to turn the affiliate model upside down.
Instead of using existing distribution channels (say, Instagram) to bring people into a shop, Fleek is bringing the content from those distribution channels into its shop universe. This is to some extent undercutting the business models of those social networks. The same networks Fleek need to maintain API access to.
There is one thing helping Fleek here: The companies using Instagram for promoting their products through their official accounts and through promotions on those social networks, like Adidas for example, have an incentive for Fleek to keep working once it has become significantly big enough. Instagram and others may not be able to cut Fleek out once enough of its advertising customers depend to some extend on Fleek as well and want the connection to stay alive. We’ll see.
The biggest threat for Fleek is to get cut out before it can get that big.
Now, it may be, that I am overthinking this and Zalando more or less just threw together a few ‘cool features’ and trend topics. But the potential for Fleek is very intriguing. The ‘Follow’ architecture, known from Twitter, Instagram and others, is perfect for this. It also has a stabilizing effect long-term. (Asynchronous connections are hard to rebuild elsewhere, hence they have greater staying power than synchronous connections. (like on Facebook))
But first, Fleek has to get to that point.
That is why the absence of a Zalando login is so frustrating.
- The new Fleek App and the Missing Zalando Login
- Zalando gives insights into the company’s strategy
- Zalando Media Solutions & the Diversification of Revenues at Big Online Retailers
- MOVMNT: Zalando Launches Mobile Fashion Outlet App
- “The Studio”: Zalando’s Separate Space For Research On The Mobile User Experience
- Zipcart: Zalando Launches Mobile App For Same-Day Delivery In Berlin
- Why Zalando’s Robert Gentz Decided To “Rethink The Entire Business”
- Amaze, The ‘Tinder For Fashion’, Brings Fashion Data To A New Level