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Zappos founder's next target: Clothes shoppers' loyalty

Nick Swinmurn, who started the huge online shoe retailer and later brought in Tony Hsieh as CEO, now wants to give clothing buyers rewards for sharing what's in their closets.

RNKD is a new startup from Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn. The company is aiming to help clothing makers learn about customers' tastes by getting them to upload pictures of the clothes in their closets. Users will be rewarded for their participation.

There's gold in them thar closets.

That's what Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn is telling people with his new startup, RNKD, which is aiming to dole out rewards to people who share with the world photos of what's in their wardrobes.

The idea behind RNKD, which launched today, is fairly simple. Swinmurn, who came up with the idea for what eventually became Zappos, and who got eventual CEO Tony Hsieh to invest, wants to help brands learn more about shoppers' tastes. And Swinmurn thinks that the best indication of their future behavior is their past actions.

The more people share what they wear--and even what they still have but don't put on anymore--the more points they'll earn and the more rewards they can get. In the early going, the rewards will take the form of things like regular drawings for Zappos gifts cards, but over time, he hopes that other retailers will get in on the giving games.

There are, of course, both social and gaming elements. RNKD will encourage users to post images of their clothing on sites like Facebook and Twitter, and when they do, other users will be able to see what's in their closets. At the same time, users are competing for ranking. The more clothes they upload, the higher the ranking. And the higher your rank, the more likely you are to win a reward. Either way, users' social participation is something that Swinmurn hopes may be viewed by retailers and apparel makers as a good way to get new would-be customers interested in their clothes.

A look at the clothes uploaded by a RNKD user. RNKD

Swinmurn doesn't yet have strong expectations for how people will use the service. Some may decide to earn a lot of points at once and take pictures of everything they own, while others may choose to upload photos only of what they're wearing on a given day. For the most part, Swinmurn is funding RNKD himself for now, and in an interview with CNET, he readily admitted that he isn't at all sure where the service is headed.

But what he does know is that people love clothes and love showing them off. And that, he believes, is the start of something beautiful, a way to develop new relationships between clotheshorses and the companies that make their threads. To date, he hasn't established relationships with any of those companies, but he is hopeful that over time, users of the service will vote with their feet--or at least their iPhone cameras--and demonstrate that they're willing to tell the world what they wear, especially in return for discounts on their favorite brands or other rewards.