Why Zalando Changed Course and Is Going From Multi-app to Single-app on Mobile

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With Zalando Build, Zalando is working on building services right into the main app in a platform fashion. When we broke the news about Zalando Build, we asked ourselves what this new strategy means for Zalando’s mobile app strategy:

All this, of course, raises serious questions about the future of Zalando’s other stand-alone apps, most importantly Fleek and Movmnt; both of which were meant to become main pillars of Zalando’s future. (Remember last year’s Capital Markets Day? Such a long time ago!) Now, almost one and half year after launching those apps in the app stores and still no official PR move or even an official launch of any of these, the new initiative raises the question wether Zalando is doing a ‘pivot’ here.

The official answer back then was ‘well, it’s too early to tell’:

Zalando spokeperson Boris Radke kept reiterating to us that those stand-alone apps are still in their early stages and that Zalando always compared them to small speed-boats finding their place within the market and the company. It makes no sense to put pressure on them already, he said. (Which makes this slide from last year’s Capital Market Daylook absurd.) And, as he said, it is still open for discussion wether the apps will turn into long-term viable businesses or remain idea generators for the main app that have a limited shelf life. 

At the big annual press event (slightly condescendingly called “Playday”)
that precedes Zalando’s capital markets day every year, I got to ask Robert Gentz, one of Zalando’s founders and co-CEOs, about the the company’s strategy going forward regarding their mobile apps.

Gentz told us that they see, essentially, fewer and fewer apps winning in the mobile space. Thus they prefer concentrating on the main app and bringing more into the main app. We always wondered how Zalando would try establishing several new apps at once. Now we do: They won’t.

As far as we can tell Zalando never made a marketing push for their younger second-tier mobile apps Fleek and Movmnt, let alone anything beyond that (Seen at, Zipcart). Zalando certainly never officially launched any of these apps. (They just happened to be online. There hasn’t been a single press release for any of these apps, one and a half years later. Yes, it’s weird.)

Nicolas Borg, VP Distributed Commerce & Strategy at Zalando, was even more blunt. He told us that Zalando does not want to divert attention away from the main business.

This makes it obvious that, going forward, Zalando is going the single-app route.

The only apps that won’t be affected by this, one presumes, are Zalando Lounge and Zalon. Both have a distinct enough business model, but are also more closely a part of Zalando’s brand.

Whatever Zalando’s plans for Fleek and Movmnt are now, they’ll become harder and harder to execute. Besides not getting any marketing love from the mothership, those signals from management also makes sure few people would want to work on those apps. They increasingly seem like a career dead-end. Maybe that is why Daniel Schneider, former CEO of Zalando subsidiary Mobile Fashion Discovery GmbH and thus the boss of Fleek et al, has left the company. (German)
Who knows. What we do know though is that the best people now would not want to work on those apps. And even if they would want to, Zalando probably wouldn’t let them. (“You could help us more over at the main app.”)

It’s a shame, really. Fleek had/still has a lot of potential. And Movmnt still seems to have some life left in it. But how far can those businesses grow or even survive while being barely kept on life support?

Also, one could argue that Zalando never gave those apps a proper chance. Or at least, hasn’t yet.

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6 comments

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