British online fashion retailer Asos.com will launch a dedicated Australian website at the end of September, suggesting local fashion start-ups could be up against some stiff competition.
Launched in 2000, Asos has developed an international following by capitalising on the growth of celebrity culture, namely the desire for budget versions of celebrities’ outfits.
Co-founder Nick Robinson describes Asos as “the world’s biggest wardrobe” – and he’s not far off the mark.
The site now has 350 buyers, boasting more than 50,000 product lines including menswear. With 5.8 million registered users, the site attracts 13 million unique visitors a month.
Last year, the business reported growth of 59% while figures provided by the company reveal an annual turnover of $531 million.
There is also an Asos marketplace where shoppers can browse hundreds of small boutiques or sell their own pieces. Ethical shoppers are also catered for with the promotion of fair trade items.
The success of Asos extends beyond the checkout to an online community. The company’s Facebook page has almost one million followers, who never need to leave the social network in order to shop.
The company also produces a seasonal magazine, delivered to its 450,000 top shoppers. More frugal shoppers can read the magazine online or download the company’s new app.
Topping it all off, the company is well known for its free delivery and return policy.
It seems free delivery is becoming the norm in the industry, with retail giant Myer announcing its own plans to offer free shipping to online shoppers.
While experts have welcomed the move, they warn it will have ramifications for the rest of the sector. Retail guru Brian Walker says start-ups in particular will need to step up their game.
“This does make it challenging for smaller retailers, but ultimately they will have to follow if they are going to compete,” he says.
According to Colin McLeod, executive director of the Australian Centre for Retail Studies at Monash University, start-ups can learn from Asos.
“The use of social media will have a massive influence on purchasing decisions as potential customers get product reviews/ideas/information from other consumers, not company websites,” he says.
According to McLeod, multichannel marketing is the key to consumers’ hearts.
“Multi-channel marketing [means] understanding that customers no longer simply look up store names in the Yellow Pages or wait for brochures in the mail, but will use a variety of information sources,” he says.
“Also, the increasing use of electronic catalogues, including videos to present ideas to consumers in exciting and engaging ways.”