What the Takeover of Amaze Tells us About Zalando’s App Platform

Zalando has bought the shopping app Amaze (German). Amongst all the new mobile apps on top of Zalando, Amaze was/is an outlier. The app was not only the first one on Zalando’s platform1, it was also the only one by another company than Zalando. Amaze was essentially a third-party app providing a unique way for discovery of fashion available on Zalando, using Zalando for the complete checkout process and fulfillment.

Here is what I wrote about Amaze when the app officially launched:

Amaze is a great showcase for why an online fashion retailer like Zalando would want to go the API platform route. Amaze uses the swipe gesture made popular by the dating app Tinder to do several things at once, as co-founder Robert Lacher told the audience on stage at our K5 conference earlier this year1:
Interface: This interaction mode allows for full screen pictures. Useful for small screens and fashion. It also allows for small sessions. The time you wait in line at the supermarket e.g. Exactly where a lot of mobile usage happens.
Discovery: It as a very deliberate discovery mode.
Data: Every interaction is an intentional evaluation of what one sees. (o-1: negative or positive) The data generated can be used to better serve the users and create cohorts of users for clustering for other features.

In the meantime, Zalando released FashionFlow in Sweden with a similar Tinder-like interface. (Everything else about FashionFlow is different to Amaze.)

Amaze’s potential goes far beyond a ‘simple’ affiliate play:

What kind of insights ‘small data’ makes possible in aggregate has recently been demonstrated by Foursquare. Foursquare, which lets users check-in to places, can track foot traffic data this way. It wasable to predict accurately the first weekend sales of the new iPhone models this year based on previous data even before that launch weekend.
Imagine what kind of market insights a fairly successful Amaze will be able to produce in a year or two.

So, it makes one curious what exactly did spur this early sale. (The app hasn’t even been out for a year.)

Amaze’s unique approach of working with a vast network of fashion bloggers and others for its content makes Amaze a nice fit for Zalando’s app portfolio; also, the data generated by Amaze doesn’t hurt either.

But what does it say about Zalando’s platform on the app side when the first (and only) outside app doesn’t even survive a whole 12 months on its own?

More and more, Zalando’s platform takes on a more conservative look. A B2B and backend synergy play combined with a traditional portfolio approach on the consumer side.

This is something to watch closely. Because a true platform approach (as in: modular, ‘open’) brings with it in the long term far more potential for Zalando itself. But it is also far harder to pull off.

Taking over a struggling Amaze, that may have been running out of money, is a far easier2route than, say, figuring out an environment where an Amaze and others can thrive; and, in the process, can grow the pie for everyone.

More on this topic:

Originally published at earlymoves.com on May 19, 2016.

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