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What can online retailers learn from Asos ?

A 38% increase in retail sales and their retail margin is up 90 bps!

Anyone tracking the ecommerce world could not fail to be impressed by the incredible results from Asos, the British fashion e-tailer at the end of December 2013. Theirs was the best Christmas ever – so why is this?

In one sense maybe its not such a surprise as the figures for e-commerce in general have continued to rise – by 15.5% year-on-year on ONS estimates, while the IMRG CapGemini e-retail sales index suggested an even higher rate of growth, at 17.5%.

As rising e-retail sales and the growing importance of multi-channel retailing are making consistent headline news the rate of growth of e-retailers such as Asos is headline grabbing.

Asos’ success is due to its focus on growth at all costs strategy particularly in its overseas markets which are worth 60% of its business. It uses in-country websites with their own payment and logistics solutions, and has expanded rapidly most recently into Russia and China. Its also has its Asos Marketplace which is a place where anyone, anywhere in the world, can sell fashion, to anyone, anywhere in the world.

Overseas markets have their own Asos twitter feeds in their own languages, which effectively act as windows into new markets, highlighting trends and offering insight into existing and emerging consumer demand – providing real time market data.

Yet despite its global strategy Asos has never taken its eye off the ball in the UK and has bucked the trend of the traditional high street with UK sales up by 37%.

I strongly believe that it’s early adoption of digital platforms is also one of the biggest reasons for its success which coincided with the start of e-commerce and online shopping and social media.  Asos has some trendy tools – iPhone and iPad apps, a Facebook shop, an English-language mobile site and Fashion Finder tool – which appeal to its target group – the 20 somethings and provide a mobile shopping experience. A live feed on its Fashion Finder page shows off new outfits created by community users, and moodboards highlight the latest trends, styles and colours for inspiration.

Asos’ social media channels are exactly what they should be: social. There’s a human being responding to tweets as well as competitions designed to get  users to engage.

It’s surprising how many big companies fail to recognise that creating a personality behind a social media channel isn’t just a nice idea, it’s crucial.

In addition the free worldwide shipping has also played in Asos’s recent success. Other online retailers need to offer the touch and feel aspect and offer free shipping and returns too.

Its goal is to become the No 1 Fashion Destination for 20 somethings – reaching customers wherever they are, and whatever they are using making Asos brands readily available. Asos is well on the way to achieving this and we expect it will keep moving forward. Its challenge now, is to keep its offering fresh and relevant to all territories, as well as personal to its customers. These are lessons to learn for all major global e-retailers.