The Age of ASOS


ASOS has its sights set on conquering the global fashion market on the back of impressive profits. Nicola Clark goes behind the scenes with Lindsay Nuttall to uncover the secrets of the online retailer's marketing strategy.

Fast fashion has become yet faster. In the (approximately) six minutes it will take you to read this article, the ASOS team will have received a detailed update on what its customers have just bought online.

In the 'always on' culture of ecommerce, ASOS' marketers can effectively assess what's hot and what's not in this interval; or at least, what is flying off the virtual shelves the fastest, and what is wallowing in the virtual returns bins. Within the company, this commitment to maximising customer insight is seen as a core pillar of 'restless innovation', the mantra that underpins the entire operation.

With this phenomenal volume and speed of customer data (which appears as a widget on employees' desktops), it is a wonder that anyone in the ASOS marketing department gets anything else done. While consumers are seemingly addicted to ASOS - the site attracts more than 13m unique users a month - the team is hooked on deciphering what those customers are doing, and how best to interact with them. It is apt, then, that the brand, launched in 2000 as As Seen On Screen, is introducing the strapline 'As Seen On The Streets'.

Edgy campaign

Lindsay Nuttall, global head of strategy and communications at ASOS, says: 'We don't dictate trends, we don't tell people how to wear the clothes. We aren't slavish about following shifting trends'. With this in mind, the online fashion company has turned to street dancers, skaters and a beat box choir, rather than the catwalk or celebrities, to front its latest campaign. The brand has come a long way since its early years, when its collections were based entirely on cheap imitations of looks favoured by celebrities such as Lauren Conrad and Lindsay Lohan.

The global Urban Tour campaign, the first work for the brand by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, represents a shift in strategy and a focus on men for the first time. The activity is ASOS' most edgy and wide-reaching to date Encompassing London, New York, LA, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai, the investment also reflects the brand's determination to become a key player on the global fashion catwalk. The digital activity, which includes videos of the 'world's best dancers' in London and line skaters in Paris, are designed to be fully shoppable. In the London video, users will be able to click on any dancer, who will then break out from the group to perform. Consumers can also click through to purchase any item the dancers are wearing.

Multiple platforms

The content is effectively platform neutral. It is developed for viral videos and distribution on social channels, a strategy that reflects ASOS' belief that its consumers use a variety of platforms. 'We optimise our content for tablets and mobile, but we still have magazines,' explains Nuttall. 'For us, it's not a question of one or the other. These multiple platforms are helping us become boundless, immersive and interactive.'

Indeed, while publishers have waxed lyrical about how they can best meet the digital challenge, ASOS seems to have gone direct to its consumers for the answer.

It has enabled its users to upload looks they have created quickly, through a simple drag-and-drop option, and to share their content with the ASOS community. Such self-generating content is highly desirable in democratic fashion.

'This next generation coming through is incredibly positive, they don't have the geographical or career limitations of older generations,' says Nuttall. 'They are doing so many different things and sharing them with one another, and we love sharing the way people connect with each other.'

While ASOS doesn't have the high-street baggage of many of its rivals, it is not solely an innovative understanding of social media and the psychology of fashion blogs that is propelling the brand. …

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