Zappos Founder Focuses on Brand Loyalty for His Next Gig

Published on November 16, 2011
by Tricia Duryee

As soon as Nike agreed to start selling merchandise on Zappos, founder Nick Swinmurn stopped wearing Adidas and became a huge fan of the Nike brand.

“I have about 50 pairs of Nikes in my closet, and it seemed to me like I should be treated differently by Nike than a customer who has zero pairs,” he said.

The thought inspired Swinmurn to start RNKD, which is launching in beta today. Customers can create profiles and upload pictures of items of clothing they already own by snapping a picture and designating brands and where they bought each piece.

“The idea was to bridge the gap between consumers and brands by using what people already have in their closets,” Swinmurn said.

Users will be rewarded with badges and points for uploading photos, and will have the opportunity to win gift cards based on their participation. Swinmurn believes brands could use RNKD as a way to offer clothing at a discount to their most dedicated fans.

The emphasis is on the brand, rather than the store at which the apparel was purchased, which is how many other loyalty programs are designed.

Swinmurn, who left Zappos before it was sold to Amazon, also gained inspiration for RNKD after starting a small clothing line called Dethrone, which creates gear and clothing for practitioners of mixed martial arts. He said he sells 99 percent of the apparel to small shops. “We have no idea who walks into the shops and buys the product,” he said.

Swinmurn is hoping to tip the market on its head. Brands are already giving discounts on clothing at stores like Ross and T.J. Maxx, and on online flash sales sites like Gilt Groupe, ideeli and Rue La La. But those discounts aren’t being given to the biggest fans of the brands.

Instead, Swinmurn argues, discounts should go to consumers who deserve them.

RNKD is based in San Francisco, and is self-funded by Swinmurn, who has an engineering team of one.

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