Zappos Founder Wants to Peek in Your Closet

New startup RNKD offers rewards for loyal customers

Most fashion and shopping startups focus on what you're about to buy, or what you've just purchased. RNKD, the new startup created by Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn, is doing something a little different. It wants to reward users for the clothes that they already own.

Swinmurn, of course, has already found success in the shopping world. Zappos, the shoe sales site he founded in 1999, was sold to for $1.2 billion. Since Swinmurn left Zappos in 2006, he has experimented with a few startup ideas, and he also started his own clothing brand, Dethrone.

So Swinmurn is drawing on real experience when he says RNKD gives brands a much wider approach to finding their most loyal customers. Sure, it's useful for Nike to know if you just bought its shoes. On the other hand, an even better sign of your loyalty is whether you've got a wardrobe that's overflowing with Nike apparel.

RNKD is opening to the public today. When users log in, they're immediately asked to start snapping photos of the items in their closets. They also enter information about each piece of clothing, like the brand and where they bought it.

As the site's name implies, users are ranked, and if they want to improve that ranking, they need to upload more photos and bring new users to the site. If they're not motivated by rankings alone, there's additional incentive. Those activities can also lead to rewards like Zappos gift cards. Eventually, Swinmurn says brands should start targeting their rewards at specific users. For example, Nike could offer discounts based on how many Nike products you have in your closet.

In talking to Swinmurn, it's clear that he spent a lot of time thinking about how RNKD might become valuable to brands. What's a little more uncertain is whether the site can become a compelling proposition for consumers. Rewards and discounts are nice, but improving on RNKD's existing social features (which are relatively bare bones) could turn the site into a real draw, not just for bargain hunters, but for anyone who wants to know what his friends are keeping in the closet.