Last November, when Broadsheet spoke with ASOS, the London-based e-tailer was shipping two jumbo jets of product to Australia each week. This week, when we sat down with ASOS founder and CEO Nick Robertson, he refreshed the numbers: it’s now 3.6 jumbos, with Australians making a purchase every seven seconds.
They are extraordinary numbers from what was once a product placement site, only to become the number one fashion website on the planet. On their global sales heat map, Australia radiates red hot and the ferocity with which Australians have embraced ASOS has surprised everyone.
Compared to its launch site of 2000, ASOS.com today looks remarkably different. A lot has changed of course – the technology, the platform and the online retail landscape. Even the original idea (that of selling product related to television programs) has evolved. In 2004, Robertson and his team quickly realised it was their fashion product that was really moving, so they refocused their business proposition.
“From selling lots of things to honing in on just fashion, then more recently honing in on the twenty-something target market has helped determine the level of brands we now have.”
These brands include ASOS’s own label (which accounts for just over half of stock) as well as a selection of designer brands covering womenswear, menswear, accessories and beauty.
It’s fair to say that ASOS’s biggest friend in its rapid growth has been technology and the site has benefitted hugely from the speed of broadband and moving imagery capabilities. Online fashion purchasers, particularly those in the twenty-something age bracket, like to move quickly. The different platforms have only meant more opportunities to purchase. As Robertson puts it: “The desktop became laptop, that became tablet, that became smartphone.”
Part of the success of ASOS is adapting the site as new technologies come to hand; there are smartphone and tablet apps (such as the ground-breaking new, Fashion Up app), the Scan to Shop initiative, a strong social media aspect and there is a monthly magazine that has quickly become the highest circulating in the UK.
“It’s more than a big shop. You can come in and create outfits and looks, you can share those, you can sell your own stuff in marketplace and you can browse all the vintage boutiques. It’s much more a circular experience.”
And, it seems to be a winning formula – last financial year the business turned over more than half a billion and is well on track for Robertson’s 2015 goal of becoming a one billion sterling company.
The ASOS team are in Sydney this week to launch In Your World – a fashion initiative targeting the insatiable appetite of the Australian customer – which has, according to Robertson, “taken everyone by surprise.”
Simultaneously launching three collections – Caravan, Salon and House Party (menswear) – the product will be available to purchase only in Australia for an exclusive 30-day period. What’s more, the collections offer a preview to the northern hemisphere’s spring summer 2013 collections, which for the trend-obsessed Australian customers, who are used to get things last – not first – is a very big deal.
Attempting to address the counter-seasonality problem was a key priority and reflects the new global online village in which we now reside. In fact, ASOS do not regionalise their product at all, believing it’s a misconception that Australians wouldn’t want the same product as in the UK or America.
Despite this, our infamous spring racing season has been given a mention in Salon and beachwear has been well and truly covered in Caravan. Dresses – ASOS’s biggest seller – dominate the Salon collection, which is embellished and vintage-inspired. Carven collection is inspired by a heady 1960s Marrakech, washed-out tones and billowy shapes. House Party is a menswear collection inspired by early 1990s raves and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – all graphic prints and bright colours.
For further details on the In Your World collections visit asos.com/au throughout October.
And if you’re wondering about the carbon footprint generated by 3.6 jumbos weekly, Robertson tells us they’re a carbon neutral company and it’s all offset. Now that’s commitment.