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Asos’ Matt Hiscock on Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

Much of the e-tailer's future growth will come from outside the U.K., and it is laying down a foundation to bolster that growth.

Asos is thinking globally, but acting locally, to build a bigger business.

As detailed by Matt Hiscock, senior vice president of Asos U.S. Inc., an investment of $4 million more than a decade ago launched an online fashion e-tailer that’s worth around $9 billion today. In the six months ended September, London-based Asos drew some one million unique visits daily, had 7.1 million active customers worldwide, and dispatched 8.6 million orders to 237 countries.

“Our aim is to become the world’s number-one online fashion destination for Millennials.  We’re rapidly approaching our 1 billion pound [$1.67 billion] sales target [for 2015] and we had a strong result in our first quarter,” said Hiscock. “There’s plenty left to deliver and we’re at the early stages of exploiting the global opportunity.”

Much of Asos’ future growth will come from outside the U.K., and it is laying down a foundation to bolster that growth. In addition to Asos.com, it has launched eight country-specific Web sites to address customers in their home markets and has opened offices throughout the world, including recently in Russia and China. The U.S. office was established in 2010, although most functions remained centralized in London until 2012, when the U.S. office strengthened its editorial, marketing, public relations and buying capabilities.

In the U.S., Hiscock said, Asos’ customer base “is now over one million active customers. It took us seven years in the U.K. to get to a million customers, and we did it in two here in the U.S. [In] our most recent U.S. sales report, we [registered] 28 percent growth over last year with $52 million in net revenues for the four months [ended December].”

 

American consumers aren’t exactly the same as British ones — and Hiscock emphasized Asos hasn’t just planted its U.K. model in the U.S. It has made tweaks to respond to the needs and wants of U.S. consumers. They include generating content specific to the U.S., making sure it stocks merchandise that’s appropriate for Americans in warmer climates, raising awareness by reaching out to celebrities pertinent to U.S. audiences, increasing its warehousing facilities to enable faster shipping at lower costs in the U.S. and launching Android and iOS apps for American mobile devices, which will occur in the next month or so.

“It’s about being as relevant as possible to our U.S. customer. We work really hard at this, whether it is through our homepage content, daily fashion and celebrity news, social, e-mail, YouTube or through the Asos magazine,” said Hiscock. “Fashion is a global language, for sure, but we tailor content specifically for U.S. events, try different ways to engage and appeal and reflect the local trading calendar here, which does vary quite significantly to the rest of the world. This fuels repeat visits, reinforces our proposition as a fashion destination that is more than just a store.”

Going forward, Asos will boost its efforts to customize the U.S. experience. The e-tailer will be adding benefits to its Premier service in the U.S., which, for $19, provides free two-day shipping, an Asos magazine subscription and access to deals and sales. Customer service will be enhanced with new contact methods and better self-help tools. On the merchandising side, although Asos’ namesake brand has been at the forefront of its U.S. strategy, third-party brands will gain prominence on the U.S. Web site.

Hiscock noted Asos is scouring the American market for brands to sell in the U.S. and elsewhere through Asos. “Over the long term, it’s about truly localizing our customer offer here,” he said. “The offer from New York should be different from California or from Florida.”