ASOS’s new website layout seems vaguely familiar, but the real question is whether or not this gambit will help to improve sales for the UK-based pureplay.
In recent weeks, ASOS has unveiled a radical redesign of its major category pages, moving from a ‘traditional’ e-commerce design towards one that places more emphasis on integrated content. But why the change and will it actually improve conversions?
Ever since Amazon’s website design became the gold standard in e-commerce user interfaces, retailers the world over have sought to replicate its functionality in their own websites. This design ethos had some clear logic behind it: display categories and sections of the website in a clear menu at the top or side (or both) of the homepage, while featuring promotions, brands or ranges in a large carousel above the fold.
Now, ASOS has made a clear step away from this tradition with its new design, most prevalent in its major category pages (see the ‘women’ page below). While the new design still incorporates a menu, it has been simplified, with more content appearing in a grid on the page itself.
As you continue to scroll further down these pages, you’ll begin to discover even more content featured within the grid format. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that this content isn’t necessarily product-centric. In fact, in some cases the content isn’t related to the product in anyway, with links to editorial and blog content that taps into ASOS’s twenty-something psyche.
“I like ASOS’s new update,” says Chris Hogan, E-Commerce Evangelist at MeMedia. “It’s certainly in-line with current trends towards visual merchandising and reducing the user’s need to click around the site in order to uncover the content they’re searching for. There’s also a clear play here towards the new obsession with sharing content.”
It’s within this context of social sharing that we can see ASOS isn’t really doing anything revolutionary in its new design. In fact, we’ve been seeing more and more of this ‘grid of visual content’ trend.
Beginning with Pinterest, presenting a rich-media experience is certainly the strongest new trend in e-commerce design we’ve witnessed in the past 12-24 months. eBay released its ‘Feed’ interface earlier in the year, Etsy has created ‘Etsy Pages’ and even Amazon has released its own version, called ‘Collections’.
Each of these new design releases are individual, with various functionality aimed at achieving different goals – but there is one aspect in particular that is shared by all of them: the push towards social sharing.
By making content more visually appealing and not as geared towards the traditional concept of a ‘path to purchase’, these companies hope to increase the level of engagement that users have with the website, while also potentially increasing traffic as these user’s share whatever piece tickles their fancy to Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
However, if that were the case, ASOS appears to have missed one crucial aspect – there doesn’t appear to be any social integration at all in their new design. But that doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Valentina Borbone, Client Relationship Director and Co-Owner of Zuni.
“I’m not surprised at all by the lack of social integration from the site,” Borbone says. “With the ROI on social being difficult to calculate, it makes perfect sense to retain traffic on the site and use the social channels themselves to drive traffic back to the site.”
While ASOS may yet move to include social links and buttons directly into product content, there must be a clear case to be made for apparently confusing the purchase process. In considering this fact, it may be that ASOS is trying to instigate a broader repositioning of its brand.
“ASOS is trying to move from being at the bottom of the purchase funnel (i.e. a place to buy from when a product need already exists), to becoming more a part of every day life for its customers, by providing advice and information at the browsing and consideration stage,” Mike Zeederberg, Managing Director and Co-Owner of Zuni, says. “It’s a strategy that worked extremely well for Net-A-Porter in the designer label space and it will be interesting to see if it will be successful in more of a mass market model.”
Of course, the question remains: will this strategy work for ASOS?
While the new design looks nice, and there is some clear strategy at play behind these changes, that doesn’t guarantee this fashion pureplay will actually see a lift in conversions as a result. Perhaps it might expect a rise in traffic without a corresponding gain in sales.
Frank Gilbert, Managing Director of Solutionists, believes the new design has one major oversight.
“This layout shows ASOS understands the behavioural differences between male shopping and female shopping, so that’s an improvement, but they missed a trick by not making the website responsive,” Gilbert says. “While it works well on iPad and there is a separate mobile site, they have wasted desktop design potential by compromising for tablets.”
Given the prevalence of mobile browsing and shopping, particularly among ASOS’s target demographic, it seems odd that the UK-based apparel retailer would overlook an opportunity to present a more cohesive multi-device experience. Ultimately, only time well tell if this gambit has worked.
What do you think of ASOS’s new website design? Is this the new face of e-commerce or will it be quickly replaced by a new design in six months time?