Keeping the twentysomething consumer — wherever he or she might live — at the heart of the business has been Asos.com’s philosophy as it expands internationally. Today, some 65 percent of sales come from territories outside the site’s U.K. home market.
“It’s expensive,” said Matt Hiscock, senior vice president of Asos U.S. Inc. “Matching and meeting customer expectations in all these markets is not cheap. It requires expertise, and there is no way around hiring local talent.”
In the U.S., where the Asos’ shoppers are 80 percent female, Hiscock said that events and annual shopping dates like Cyber Monday and Black Friday play a big part in the sales landscape, and that customers expect to be marketed to and receive great service. They also look to celebrities and bloggers to inform their style and respond to a simple and fun approach on social platforms.
In Australia, the biggest market outside the U.K., where four jumbo jets’ worth of stock is shipped every week, shoppers are primarily driven by bloggers and musical artists. And price — or a deal — is the main incentive to shop.
Paris, meanwhile, is key to the French market, accounting for 30 percent of the business. French shoppers “let go twice a year” during regulated sales seasons, and tend to invest in key basics, believing in a typically Gallic “less-is-more approach.” They also tend to shop a lot on Sundays, when many shops are closed, Hiscock said.
In Southern Europe, “Italian guys are really into shopping online,” said Hiscock. “They make up roughly 30 percent of the business.” With 57 percent youth unemployment in Spain, the customer there tends to be slightly older, looking for an alternative to the local high street and be driven by prices. Weekdays see stronger traffic, with weekends reserved for leisure.
Russia, Asos’ newest market launched in May, was a top city for the online retailer even before the local launch of the site. Moscow and Saint Petersburg make up half the sales. “Eighty percent of people in Russia would like to pay cash on delivery of their goods,” Hiscock said.
“Shipping is worth a special mention. They expect free, quick deliveries, but quick in Russia is considered to be seven days.…Some of the challenges with domestic postal service can be considerably larger: We met with the Russian post, who confidently predicted they would lose 10 percent of our deliveries.”
Next up for Asos is the Chinese market, which is expected to launch in the fall. There, 40 percent of customers will want to pay with cash, and 45 percent will want to pay with Alipay, a third-party payment solution.
In terms of marketing, Hiscock said his team has had to learn about the social media platforms popular with the Chinese, who also value peers’ opinions, so a product page showing how many units have sold is commonplace.