Asos has admitted that while it relies heavily on social media to communicate with and market to its millions of customers, its relationship with sites such as Facebook and Instagram is not always straightforward.
Speaking on a results call yesterday (13 July) following Asos’s third quarter results, CEO Nick Beighton said: “[Going forward] we don’t know whether [social media] will be a drag or an enabler. But certainly with potential buy buttons coming through social media, they are actually attempting to capture the customer journey; that’s a potential threat but also an enabler.”
Beighton added that there is not a “binary answer” as to whether social media would continue to have a positive impact on the company. Asos has more than 20 million followers on social media on “every conceivable channel” because Beighton believes it is important to be wherever its customers are.
And despite concerns about the threat it could pose, Asos plans to migrate more of its marketing effort from email to social.
“Email is still a very effective communications tool but actually we’ll be migrating far more of that through social, some of which is free, paid social and through digital marketing,” explained Beighton.
“We’ll also just re-evaluate what we do with marketing going forward, the role of marketing and whether we try out some things we haven’t tried for a while.”
Asos finds practical uses for AI
Beighton’s comments come as Asos’s sales surged in the four months to the end of June on the back of strong international sales and Asos holding its price when other online retailers increased theirs.
The retailer also credited its focus on customer experience, which Beighton said had “moved to a whole different game” due to artificial intelligence (AI) and data science.
“Every customers that comes through the app is getting a better experience the next time they come in and actually the journey they are following is enhancing the journey for the next person. That’s where data usage through data science and AI will go,” he said.
Asos implemented 300 tech updates (not including things like bug fixes) in the quarter and Beighton expects this number to rise as the pace of change in digital increases. For example, visual search is now live in the UK and the retailer is using AI and data to personalise that further.
It is also testing a virtual assistant – dubbed Ava (for Asos virtual assistant) – that Beighton called “pretty amazing” and is using data and AI tech to give customers greater confidence in the sizes of its products.
“We have continued to innovate at an even faster pace across all areas of our business, from product to technology to proposition. This sets us up really well for the future,” Beighton concluded.