Jewellers can learn some lessons from this fashion e-tailer.
Fashion retail has always been leaps ahead of jewellery at adopting innovative strategies, and leading the charge for the past few years has been fashion e-tailer Asos with steadily soaring figures and a pioneering attitude to getting sales. Kathryn Bishop finds out what makes this retailer tick and lays out some best practice that jewellers can take away from this fast-fashion behemoth.
Since its launch 11 years ago Asos has built up its business to become an online fashion powerhouse. At last count it claimed to be attracting more than 13 million unique visitors to its site per month, with more than 3 million active users shopping from more than 160 countries. It is also one of the top five most visited online clothing retailers in the world.
These are dizzying figures, but they have not sprouted from thin air; Asos has worked hard to pull in its customer base and establish itself as the go-to online store for budget and luxury shoppers alike. This hard-working attitude mixed with a visionary approach to retail has made it a leader in its field, and a model that retailers across all sectors look to for inspiration.
While Asos’s fast-fashion attitude is a million miles away from the measured and traditional approaches of most fine jewellers, it has some steadfast fans in the sector, including this month’s Professional Jeweller guest editors, who regard Asos as a bastion for all that is innovative and forward-thinking in retail today.
John Greed in Lincoln is another jewellery retailer that looks up to the fashion website and firmly believes that shopping for jewellery should be a lifestyle experience, just as in fashion. “We have created a website with content that tells consumers about the latest trends and how they can work these into their jewellery looks; taking inspiration from hugely successful sites such as Asos and Net-a-Porter,” says John Greed chief executive Richard Finch.
Finch believes it is integral for jewellery companies to show that they are on the pulse when it comes to trends “by constantly updating their brands and showing consumers how their stock fits into the latest catwalk looks and street styles”.
This is certainly something that Asos does well, with its regular street style photos featured in the Spotted section of its blog that analyse outfits. Replicating such a feature is simple and something that jewellery retailers could do by asking their customers to pose for such photos while wearing their jewellery purchases. The exercise might seem superfluous to some in the industry, but it is a great way to build an online community and show customers that what the store is selling is on trend and that the store understands its customer base.
In November last year Asos posted its H1 results revealing a 66% increase in profits to £11.7 million. Such figures of success are due to Asos’s ever-evolving website, continuously updated product line and variety of brands. It also dares to take risks that other companies have not. For example, it was one of the first online retailers to launch a Facebook retail platform selling clothes and accessories directly through the social networking site. By using this social shopping model it allows customers to shop while they chat to friends and then share their purchase with their network of Facebook friends, who in turn might click through to the Asos site and perhaps make a purchase themselves.
E-commerce solutions company ChannelAdvisor assesses the most effective use of Facebook for commerce each month, and unsurprisingly Asos continues to be ranked at the top of the results. In November it boasted the second-highest number of Facebook fans for a UK fashion retailer – more than 1.4 million – only falling behind high street giant Topshop. Asos also won 79,164 further fans in November alone, something achieved through online promotions such as links to seasonal sales, regular posting and updating of trend- and offer-led photo albums on Facebook, alongside interaction with its fans – something so key but regularly overlooked by smaller retailers.
With a view to microblogging site Twitter, Asos is active on a daily basis. It has both a main Asos Twitter feed and its individual employees have Asos Twitter pages of their own, to build a community feel almost instantly. The curators of the main Asos page will, like its Facebook page, reply to followers’ questions, send them links to products while also subtly promoting Asos’s online offers.
In the run up to Christmas, for example, Asos ran a Twitter campaign called the Christmas Jumper Club. This marketing exercise was designed to drive traffic to the Marketplace section of the site, an area where, much like eBay, individuals can sell second-hand clothing and accessories online, modelling the designs themselves, a rule that all must adhere to.
Despite having no control over what is sold on Marketplace, or who is selling it, Asos still manages to create focused campaigns to drive shoppers to this section of its site. For example, in the run up to Christmas it collated images of all the users who were selling festive jumpers and posted these in a photo album on Facebook. It then Tweeted links to the album through Twitter and also created a hash tag on Twitter called #ChristmasJumperClub to build trending interest in the idea.
The number of people this campaign potentially reached – counting together Asos’s Facebook and Twitter followers – totalled more than 1.4 million. Plus, it had potential to reach even more through re-Tweets or sharing on Facebook with users who aren’t fans or followers of Asos. The comments, likes and use of the hash tag made this idea even more effective. This sort of campaign is easy to replicate and can be done with a variety of focuses – Valentine’s Day gifts, engagement rings, Trollbeads offers.
While smaller retailers might be reading this and thinking that the success of larger companies such as Asos comes from their similarly large marketing budgets, it might be worth rereading this section and realising that outside of man hours, this sort of marketing has zero costs. It is true that the scale of Asos’s viral, digital and social media assault – which it employs agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty to manage – is vast, but many of its strategies can be replicated on a smaller scale, something that is perfectly acceptable when you measure your customers in the hundreds or thousands rather than tens of millions.
But when a retailer is measuring customer numbers in the tens of millions, it does allow a certain air of confidence to try out new strategies; something that Asos is famed for. As well as its adventures into social media, Asos has recently introduced a strategy that many retailers would brush off at first reading as commercial suicide – it now not only sells its own stock through asos.com but also that of external retailers, its competitors.
This might sound completely radical, and a way to dampen sales rather than inflate them, but Asos is looking beyond the quick sale; if it can create a one-stop site that allows users to browse a variety of retailers all in one place then shoppers will continue to return to the site rather than browsing externally.
It is a strategy that other companies, such as fashion group Aurora, are starting to pick up on. The group, which owns high street fashion chains Oasis, Warehouse and Coast, has now added international brands to its online retail sites in a bid to win more sales and drive more traffic to its sites.
Aurora group multichannel director Hash Ladha, a former employee of Asos, says that by adding a wider selection of brands it can increase online traffic and give customers a better selection of products to choose from. He likens the strategy to retailers taking space in shopping centres, where they know there will be a number of other brands there to create a higher level of footfall than they would achieve by taking a location away from any competitors.
Ideas like this are what keep Asos at the cutting edge of retail and are what make it worthwhile keeping a close watch of, for any type of retailer. The team at Asos has a knack for identifying what will be the next big thing in retail and also has an intimate understanding of who its customers are and how they want to shop. Where Asos blazes into, the fashion retail pack follow and for forward-thinking jewellery retailers it’s a trail that could lead to great rewards.
This article was taken from the January issue of Professional Jeweller. To read a digital version of this issue click here.