Asos: ‘Imagine shipping 3 coats and 2 bags from our warehouse in the north of England to Burkina Faso, for free’

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The British fashion pure- player ASOS was awarded the golden European Cross- Border Award at this year’s Global E-Commerce Summit in Barcelona. Operating 7 localised webshops, offering free shipping to 204 countries worldwide and having grown their cross-border sales almost ninefold over 3 years, ASOS is a true flagship of European cross- border e-commerce players. E-commercefacts.com spoke to Moritz Hau, territory manager for Germany and Northern Europe, who accepted the Award in Barcelona.

Congratulations for winning the European Cross Border Award! What does it mean for ASOS to have been awarded this prize?
Thank you very much. Winning an award is always an extraordinarily rewarding event. When your company grows so fast and you love your job and the people you work with, you kind of tend to assume that you’re part of an awesome team. Hearing it from someone else is so much more special.

Why do you think is ASOS the rightful winner?
Last quarter we had 67% of our sales coming from more than 200 countries around the world, with only a third of sales occurring in the UK. This is a radical change from just a couple of years ago and I think it probably means we’re doing a fairly decent job.

What makes ASOS international e-com operations so successful?
Our product, our people, our investments in infrastructure and technology. Most importantly, we keep asking ourselves “what would our customers love” before we ask any other question. For example, when we launched Free Delivery around the world, we were taking considerable financial risks. Imagine shipping 3 coats and 2 bags from our warehouse in the north of England to Burkina Faso, for free. We believed that it would pay off in the medium term because customers who love our brand will come back to ASOS time and time again and tell their friends about it. I think we’ve been proven right.

How do you decide which markets to localize the website for?
Ideally we’d like to offer localized websites in every country we serve, but clearly we need to set some priorities given that we don’t have access to unlimited resources and money. Our decision to localize is therefore based on a mixture of current performance (with non-localized websites) and future potential. China is probably the prime example for a country with almost endless potential – there are 27 times as many 20somethings there than in the UK.

You don’t really localize your product offer. How do you make sure to reach the local audiences?
We offer a “London edit” of brands from around the world, alongside our own brand’s offering which covers a vast variety of options. All in all we have 60,000+ products live at all times. There’s something there for everybody, across styles and price ranges. Our team of visual merchandisers and fashion editors then draws on this plethora of items to offer customized selections to our local customers – on our site, through email and our social channels.

What is ASOS unique selling point?
We have amazing fashion and great content, custom-made for 20somethings. This focus on 20somethings means that we really “get” our customers much better than if we had a broader focus. Also, crucially, the vast majority of our staff are 20somethings too.

How do you deal with returns? Are there differences between the countries ASOS sells to?
Returns are a natural part of fashion e-commerce – it’s impossible to tell whether you love your purchase unless you try it on. Therefore we offer free returns and generous return periods wherever economically feasible.

What do you think about virtual fitting services such as UpCload or FitsMe? Something for the future?
Virtual fitting services have come a long way in recent years – they used to be awkward to use, ugly and operationally very difficult to implement. Today there are some great services out there. I can’t comment any further other than by saying “watch this space”!

Omnichannel is the buzzword of 2013. Will ASOS make a move to connect more to the offline world?
That’s definitely not on the map for now – despite our success we’re only scratching the surface in many countries and our online growth potential continues to be enormous. It makes much more sense to focus on growing our existing markets and opening up new ones before we even start thinking about moving into physical retailing.

European E-commerce Awards
The Global E-commerce Summit and Ecommerce Europe take pride in organising the European E-commerce Awards. During the Global E-commerce Summit the winners of the European E-commerce Awards will be announced. The following awards were presented during the ceremony in 2013:

  • Entrepreneurial Award
  • Cross-Border Award
  • Multichannel Award

Global E-commerce Summit 2014
The sixth edition of the Global E-commerce Summit will be held on 17 and 18 June in Barcelona. On 16 June, prior to the Global E-commerce Summit, the Pre-conferences Ecommerce Europe are held.

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