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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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1.0 Introduction

This report aims to review fashion retailer ASOS's online marketing activities with discussion centred on social media marketing and website design and deployment. These will provide a theme for in-depth discussion, with reference to relevant theories. This will be followed by suggestions for possible steps the company could take to improve their online marketing performance. Finally a peer reviewed journal article by Soloaga & Guerrelo (2016) will provide the basis for a final discussion for potential improvements in ASOS's YouTube and Vimeo content with fashion films.

1.1 Company Profile

ASOS is a global fashion brand which was born in 1999 as a way for fashion lovers to find clothes that celebrity's had worn, hence it's original name ‘AsSeenOnScreen' – abbreviated to ASOS. This short, snappy name was catchier and as the brand itself pointed out – easier to type into a search bar. Over a number of years the company transitioned to ASOS in their branding, website domain, logo, etc. until finally changing their company holdings name in 2003. Their mission statement states that they: “focus on fashion as a force for good, inspiring young people to express their best selves and achieve amazing things. We believe fashion thrives on individuality and should be fun for everyone.” ASOS stock products from hundreds of different brands including their own range, with 60% of products exclusive to the site (ASOS, 2018).

2.0 Social Media Marketing

2.1 The Importance of Social Media for Businesses

Social media is a term open to interpretation but is defined by Ryan (2017, p.121) as the “umbrella term for web-based software and services that allow users to come together online and exchange, discuss, communicate and participate in any form of social interaction.” Social media is an important discussion for all businesses to be participating in, one-way or the other. The technology within these platforms; targeting, analytics, sponsored posts, etc. –is very powerful for marketers.  

ASOS say their mission is to “become the world's number-one online shopping destination for fashion-loving 20-somethings” (ASOS, 2018). The info-graphic below shows the average age of social media users is predominantly those in ASOS's target demographic.

Figure 1 - Statista (2014).

Therefore social media marketing must inevitably be a huge focus for the company's resources. With so many consumers checking these platforms so often, they would expect this to make a promising return on investment by using this opportunity for marketing.

2.2 Building Communities Online

Digital marketers need to build and infiltrate online communities in order to spread their message (Kishel, 2007). This is even more important for e-Commerce brands such as ASOS whose brand is based online. There's no bricks and mortar ‘ASOS- shop' for customers to visit and speak to a friendly face. Therefore it's important for ASOS to continuously build and maintain strong online relationships with their customers. A study by Bruhn, Schoenmueller, and Schaffer (2012) found that communicating through social media can “have a great impact on hedonic brand image” (Bowen, 2015, p.15).

Webber (2013) outlines a seven-point plan that can be used to understand how ASOS builds their online community:

1. Observe

ASOS can track what their customers are saying about products, delivery times, customer service, and other thoughts and opinions through various channels: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram mentions, hashtags (customers can use #AsSeenOnMe when posting photos in their new clothes) and further analysis through tools such as Google Analytics.

2. Recruit

Looking at ASOS's follower count (see table below) the company is very successful in ‘recruiting' customers to join their social media audience. ASOS do this through the offer of ‘exclusive content', seeing new products and launches before any one else does… bar the other millions of followers!

3. Evaluate platforms

Chin et al (2015) highlight the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of each platform. ASOS have clearly evaluated the effectiveness of their Google+, Tumblr and Pinterest, as these have all been dormant for over a year.

4. Engage

This is where the business has to be creative, encouraging customers to engage through different methods. ASOS do this in many ways; #AsSeenOnMe, ASOS magazine, youtube fashion films, etc. One of the most interesting and unique methods is ‘ASOS insiders'. This is a different approach to using social influencers, people who Ryan (2017) defines as “someone who has built up enough credibility with a certain audience to be able to have an effect on what they spend their money on” (p.136). These individuals are recruited by ASOS to share photos wearing clothes/ accessories and provide the link/ code so followers can also purchase the product. ASOS Insiders add 17,880,228 engagements to the brand (ASOS, 2018).

5. Measure

The analytics tools available on all social media platforms will allow ASOS to see what content consumers react best to, what the best time to post is, etc.

6. Promote

A solid 7.27% of web traffic to asos.com comes from social media – with almost half of that from Facebook (Similar Web, 2018). Promoting the sharing of material across social media platforms would lead to an increase in this number. The aim in this case is to produce viral content. After printing a typo on 17,000 delivery bags, ASOS took to Facebook and Twitter to make light of it and the post went viral with over 26,000 likes.

7. Improve

Measuring successes and failures against the targets ASOS has set will allow them to improve performance.

2.3 ASOS's Social Media Presence

ASOS has a large and varied presence on social media. They advertise their Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat accounts on their main site.

However on their investor's site and ASOS Marketplace they advertise those three and more: Google Plus, Tumblr (both of which have been dormant for over a year), Pinterest, YouTube, and specific menswear accounts for Instagram and Twitter.

Figure 2: (ASOS Women, 2018)

Figure 3: Table of ASOS's social media platforms & audience.

2.4 Summary

Social media “can be a great way to build a community around your brand and monitor what consumers think about you, find out more about them, and to offer valuable content” (Ryan, 2017, p.130).

However, it can also be unpredictable and business's can find themselves in undesirable situations. ASOS deal daily with undesirable situations: missing orders, unhappy customers, etc. through various social media platforms. However some incidents have been out with their control.

In 2016, customers started getting suspicious that ‘bots' ran ASOS's Facebook page (see Appendix A). Situations like this create distrust and confusion of customer service for the brand.

There is an Instagram account dedicated to ridiculing ASOS's designs. @asbos_sos has over 6,000 followers and posts regular updates that get a large response. Being ridiculed online will have a negative effect on a brands image and reputation.

On the whole ASOS handle their social media marketing very well; their content is interesting, regularly updated, and enhances their brand and their products. However, a possible improvement would be to de-clutter their presence. There are old, dormant accounts on platforms such as Google+; these aren't relevant to the brand anymore. Separate menswear accounts that aren't regularly updated create confusion as customers go to them for support that is eventually resolved by the main @ASOS_Heretohelp account.

3.0 Website Design and Development

Since the early 2000's, the Internet has developed from what Bill Gates said in 1994 would have “little commercial potential” (Weinberger, 2016) to a digital powerhouse with 54% of the world population classed as an internet user (Internet World Stats, 2017). The Internet makes the sharing of content, ideas and relationships through websites, social networks, etc. easier than ever.

In an era where 15.9% of textile, clothing and footwear purchases are made online (Office for National Statistics), it is undeniable that as a business who trades solely online (e-commerce), ASOS requires a website that is easy to navigate and accessible for everyone.

3.1 Domain name

Domain names are a key contributor to the success of website design and deployment and Ryan (2017) says it has the power to “tarnish your business image” (p.45).

As mentioned earlier in this report, ASOS is short for AsSeenOnScreen – which was also the company's original domain name. A few months after launching, directors bought www.asos.com and a year later www.asos.co.uk when they realised it was far easier to type into the search bar (ASOS, 2018).

This was a smart move early on that probably contributed towards their success.

3.2 Website Objectives

Charlesworth (2014) suggests three main objectives for any “internet presence or activity” (p.32):

1. Brand Development

Charlesworth (2014) says you should use online activity as an opportunity to develop offline-branding efforts. ASOS's online presence is representative of their branding across all platforms and is being consistently developed.

2. Revenue Generation

This objective is also confirmed by Ryan (2017) who says “it is your website that converts traffic into prospects and consumers” (p.38). ASOS utilise many opportunities online to increase their revenue including email marketing, advertising, sponsorship and social media.

3. Customer Service/ Support

McGovern (2011) highlights the importance of customer service/ support and says it “is the new marketing” (Charlesworth, 2014, p.33). ASOS have a detailed customer care section on their site with FAQ's, a live chat service, and a dedicated twitter account - @ASOS_Heretohelp.

3.3 The 6 C's

With people spending an average of 5 hours online shopping per week (Hosting Facts, 2017) it's important for ASOS to stand out from the crowd. The Small Business Marketing Trends Report (2016) said “In a crowded market, having a website that simply serves as a brochure is no longer competitive” (IronPaper, 2017). McGovern (2011) suggests there is six C's that must be considered to produce the most effective content.

1. Who CARES?

Due to the diverse range of sizes and products they supply, ASOS caters for a wider range of people than most online clothes retailers. Some of the collections available include affordable bridal ranges, extensive plus-size, petite, tall maternity, organic/ fair-trade clothes, etc. However ASOS's primary focus is appealing to those who are interested in fashion and new trends.

2. Is it COMPELLING?

The website landing page is designed with a slideshow of images showing products on offer, various “calls to action” and an “inspiration” tab on the dropdown navigation bar;

Figure 4: (ASOS Women, 2018)

Here ASOS promotes their own products and services through different editorials.

3. Is it CLEAR?

ASOS have a clean, easy to read website design- a monotone colour scheme, numerous images on each page and clear text stating details and prices of products. The navigation is simple and pages are fast to load. Data from SOASTA highlights the importance of this, as “just one second of added page load speed can see sales drop by 27%” (IronPaper, 2017).

4. Is it COMPLETE?

ASOS provides the customer with all the information they need: prices sizes, popularity of the products. They also update product pages when stock is low in certain sizes.

5. Is it CONSISE?

McGovern (2008) says “your website is not a murder mystery” and you should “lead with the need. Get to the point. Then stop.” ASOS's website content follows this advice. Descriptions are brief and there are minimal words on most pages.

6. Is it CORRECT?

ASOS on the whole give accurate information to their customers. However a quick scan of review sites shows multiple cases of incorrect delivery and returns information (Trust Pilot, 2018).

3.4 Interactivity

Recent developments in technologies mean that a high level of customisation and interactivity is possible for users of websites. ‘Cookies' are a good example of this. These are small tags that websites can attach to users to record their activity – other sites they visit, in what order, etc. (Tapp, Whitten, Housden, 2014). These are collected in databases and can be used to make marketing more direct and appropriate for the user as well as remembering their login details, what they last looked at on the site, etc. By providing a personalised site the company will in turn benefit financially as “businesses that personalise web experiences see an average 19% increase in sales (Global Web Index, 2018)

One example of how ASOS utilise this technology is through customised adverts on social media sites such as Facebook. They will collect data on products a user has looked at and will continue to market pictures of those items and similar products towards the user with the idea that repeated exposure will encourage them to purchase.

3.5 Summary

As the most visited e-commerce clothing site in the UK (Netimperative, 2018) ASOS's website design and deployment is of a very high quality. With little to fault in either their objectives or site content. However possible improvements could include, as previously mentioned, correct delivery and returns information in order to maintain the brands reputation. Another issue is with ASOS's “Marketplace” website. This is a platform for up-and-coming brands to host independent boutiques and sell clothing, accessories, etc. As seen in the image below, there is a lack of continuity in formatting, font and general design between the two sites, despite the fact they are linked.

Figure 5: (ASOS Women, 2018)

Figure 6: (ASOS Marketplace, 2018)

The ASOS Marketplace site looks like it has been left behind and not updated alongside the ASOS site. Redesigning this would add continuity and connection between the two sites and enhance the users experience and enjoyment of the site.

4.0 Fashion Films as a New Communication Format to Build Fashion Brands

This final section of the report will look at ASOS's YouTube content through discussion of the peer reviewed journal article - “Fashion films as a new communication format to build fashion brands” (Soloaga & Guerrelo, 2016). The authors conducted research on 62 fashion films produced between 2006-2016 and found that fashion brands could use films like these as a form of experimental marketing in order to get closer and “speak the language” of their consumer.

“Media-sharing sites” (Ryan, 2017) like YouTube and Vimeo have “changed the way fashion brands communicate with their audiences. This is not only due to technical possibilities but also to influencers that spread around their personal choices to others” (Soloaga & Guerrelo, 2016). Although the research conducted is directed towards luxury branded films, Soloaga & Guerrelo (2016) say that mainstream, affordable brands – such as ASOS - should utilise the technology of fashion films to improve customer relationships.

4.1 A new way to communicate with the consumer

Soloaga & Guerrelo (2016) say that shopping online has consumers jumping between different pieces of content “seeking entertainment”. However, they see fashion films as a way to connect the Internet and the fashion consumer by getting them “involved in a brands universe, enjoy varied experiences around it and above all, feel an individualised and personalised experience.”

As previously mentioned, a personalised web experience leads to an increase in sales (Global Web Index, 2018). ASOS have the opportunity to incorporate an element of personalisation within fashion films through technology from ‘Innovoid'. Innovoid is a leading video marketing company who has enabled brands to personalise their adverts with the first names of the consumer watching (Channel 4, 2017). ASOS could utilise this technology through YouTube, who will also have a database of their users names. Introducing this high level of direct personalisation would bring ASOS closer to their customers in a way they never have before.

4.2 The leading role of products in fashion film

Fashion films for brands such a Chanel and Dior are focused around a watch, a perfume, or handbag and simple in design. In comparison Soloaga & Guerrelo (2016) say that mainstream brands such as ASOS are creating fashion films with highly technical and creative production quality, to disguise from the fact that they “lack in heritage” and “iconic products”.

Mainstream, low-cost brands choose to focus instead of iconic products, on the young people their products are aimed at and “position themselves regarding social causes” (Soloaga & Guerrelo, 2016). In ASOS's most recent fashion films, the main focus has been on active-wear; people of all shapes, sizes and colours moving together, dancing, running, etc. and on makeup; expressing yourself through different and unusual colours, designs and techniques.

Soloaga & Guerrelo (2016) site Michaud (2015) who says the aim of a fashion film is to “attract, to provoke commitment and to create desire and all this is achieved via emotional values'. ASOS certainly do this, through their films that inspire individuality and equality.

4.3 Summary

To summarise, Soloaga & Guerrelo (2016) concluded that fashion brands like ASOS should use fashion films as a way of communicating with their customers on a deeper level than most other advertising methods. They say that by telling a story, fashion films “humanize brands and make it easier to engage current and future customers.” Although ASOS do currently product fashion films that reach a large audience (over 6million views on latest “More reasons to move” film (YouTube, 2018)), there is room for improvement.

Utilising the personalisation technology that is available to would allow ASOS closer access to consumers. For example, addressing the consumer by name at the beginning of the film, or using their tracked interests to show an altered film; e.g. only woman's clothes, more active wear than formal wear, trainers not high heels, etc.

Another improvement ASOS could make would be in relation to the film content. As Soloaga & Guerrelo (2016) said, the brand does not have staple, iconic pieces to focus the entire film around so therefore the film will centre on high production value. Using celebrities, iconic locations, or replicating inspiring moments in history while incorporating clothes and accessories would help ASOS achieve this. The authors also suggested that the theme of the film must resonate with the consumer, and for ASOS that being twenty-something's (ASOS, 2018) social causes such as: civil rights, racial discrimination, the environment, and mental health (Myers, 2017) could all be promising themes to base the films around.

4. Conclusion

In conclusion, ASOS, the most visited e-commerce clothing site in the UK (Netimperative, 2018) has a varied and successful online presence. This can be seen in their high follower and interaction count. Their social media presence involves interesting content and successful customer support (when there's no ‘bots' involved!) However improvements could be made by de-cluttering platforms. ASOS's website design is sleek and user experience is enjoyable. However, the ASOS Marketplace does not carry the same traits, this could be updated to improve the brands image. Correct content – delivery and returns information – would also help to improve the brands reputation and trust from consumers. Soloaga & Guerrelo (2016) have highlighted the potential for ASOS to connect on a deeper level with their customers through the distribution of fashion films. An investment from ASOS in this field would be successful.

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