One-on-one with the CEO of ASOS: Australia’s reception to ASOS has exceeded the pureplay retailer’s expectations so much that the company has changed its business plan, and launched a world-first in the local market as an incentive.
In an exclusive interview, ASOS CEO, Nick Robertson told Power Retail that while the retailer is exceptionally happy with the local reaction to ASOS, it comes as a surprise.
“We didn’t expect this level of activity in Australia, it really surprised us. So much so that we changed our plan. We were going to go to America first but we pushed that back by a year. So Australia is where we launched our first international website and where we put our first in-country customer team,” Robertson says.
The Australian market is currently the second largest territory for ASOS, rivalled only by its home turf in the UK. Robertson told Power Retail that Australia counts for 10-12 percent of the company’s net sales, which he reported to be $540 million (GBP), with Australia accounting for about $80million (GBP).
The expansion into the Australian market, and more globally follows on from a phenomenal general success story, and Robertson puts this down to a multi-faceted offering.
“There are a number of factors to our success. The interesting thing in Australia is the commonality between the customer base – Australia loves its fashion as much as the UK does. There’s also structural things like the value of currency which is helping, as well as our free delivery offering,” he says.
“First and foremost, we were the first pureplay to put a lot of relevant, fashion product in one space. Today there are about 75,000 product options on site, across 800-odd brands.
“The global free shipping offer, whilst hugely expensive for us, has given us real traction as well. We didn’t quite know how much it was going to cost us but it’s our belief that at some point where you are transacting online where the margin can afford it, then I think it’s greedy not to give that margin back to customers in the form of free shipping.”
Currently, all Australian orders are shipped from the UK. However, the retailer has been able to speed up the shipping process to offer delivery of products in four to five days, and an express service recently launched which takes two days and is fully trackable for $10.
“These sorts of offerings push out the need to have logistics infrastructure in Australia as the returns centre is getting bigger, and there’s opportunity to keep some of that stock in Australia, as opposed to taking it all back to the UK. But at this stage, the investment is better spent trying to get it here from the UK,” Robertson says.
The online shopper in Australia has proven to be more mature than the online retailer, but innovative pureplays like ASOS are giving consumers the means to shop seamlessly online.
“Australians are very digitally engaged, more so than any of our other markets. They’re very brave and very experimental and we’re trying to allow for this. Shopping is only one element online that our customers like to do – they like to read content, they like to create outfits, they like to share their wardrobes with each other. There’s so much going on digitally around fashion and what ASOS is trying to do is highlight all of this in one place.”
He listed The Iconic as a local competitor to watch but says he remains confident ASOS can hold its strong market share.
“It’s going to continue to be a more competitive space, and we’re used to that as it’s extremely competitive in the UK. Providing we can continue to keep the business moving and keep embracing all of the new platforms as and when they come along, that puts us in good stead.”
Robertson says mobile and tablet devices are a key focus for ASOS, and the retailer tailors its range differently according to which device a customer is using.
“Mobile is harder to browse products and category pages the way that you can on the big screens, so mobile is an important route for us. We’re going to edit the ranges to serve that,” he says.
“The tablet is a bigger screen format and you can shop the website on a tablet the way you would on a laptop or desktop, so we have the app for tablet but predominantly you’re still shopping the main site. Whereas mobile with that small screen experience is making it harder to navigate through 75,000 products, so that’s where the editing needs to be tighter.”
Twenty percent of ASOS’ global website traffic comes through mobile. The retailer has listened to this customer behaviour and has launched a daily fashion app that gives customers access to new releases on their mobile, as well as a fortnightly magazine that started in print format and is now available digitally.
In lieu of the Australian excitement, ASOS is launching a world-first for the local market, where customers are given an exclusive preview of the Spring Summer 2013 collection. The In Your World campaign will bring to life the collections in three public events this week, where customers can physically view the collections, and also purchase via the recently launched Shop-To-Scan app. The collections will be available to purchase exclusively from the Australian site for a limited time, before being released in other markets.
The launch has been heavily promoted through ASOS’ social media channels with access granted via the brand’s Facebook app. The retailer hopes to inspire social engagement with guests encouraged to check-in, ‘like’ an outfit or share images among their networks.
There’s been so much activity that the retailer has over-subscribed on the registration for the events.
ASOS has never previously held events open to the consumer in any market and Robertson says he hopes this is only the beginning of an ongoing feature.
“It’s the first time we’ve done this anywhere so there’s no template to follow at this stage to make it seasonal. However, I think it’s such a great idea and I’d like to see us offering this from here on in if it’s possible. Don’t think that we’re going to go physical anytime soon, ASOS is absolutely a digital business and we’ll continue to invest in that,” he finishes.