Sales at Asos were up 27 per cent in the year to the end of August, with the UK the best performer with sales growth of 35 per cent. International sales growth halved to 22 per cent in part due to the strong pound, which forced the company to cut prices to remain competitive. Pre-tax profits were down 14 per cent to £47m, mainly caused by investments in technology and a fire at its Barnsley distribution centre.
Asos is looking to innovations in personalisation to boost growth in its international markets. Speaking on a call this morning following the announcement of its full-year results, chief executive Nick Robertson said the “novelty” of browsing through thousands of products, which had proved popular on the internet over the past few years, was “starting to wane”.
“Browsing through thousands of products is not what our customers want to be doing. Our customer base needs and wants inspiration so we have to do an edit that is relevant to them personally,” he added.
Asos has already launched an “As Seen On Me” feature that allows shoppers to share their purchases and styles. Customers can also follow stylists they prefer who “flush up” new product and which Robertson claimed is a “clean, simple” way of editing through the choice.
Later this year, Asos plans to roll out recommendations and personalised product ideas based on previous browsing and shopping behaviour. It has also finished a 6-month trial of its loyalty scheme and is looking at how to take that forward.
Robertson has now taken on increased responsibility for “growth strategy, customer experience and marketing” following the decision to appoint chief financial officer Nick Beighton as chief operating officer. Beighton’s expanded role will see him take charge of retail and international and the day-to-day running of Asos, leaving Robertson free to focus on customer engagement, which he describes as the “heartbeat” of the business. Asos is hunting for a new CFO.
The increased focus on engagement also led to Asos upping its marketing spend by 37 per cent to £56m in the year to 31 August, equal to 5.7 per cent of sales. Robertson says Asos plans to maintain that share of spend over the coming two years as it looks to drive awareness and grow its market share in its strategic territories
“If customers are converting more, shopping more frequently and buying more they are more engaged with what we are doing. We are building customer loyalty,” he said.
Priorities include adding new local-language mobile apps for markets including Europe and China, launching a click-and-collect service and introducing zonal pricing. Asos is also continuing to work on its product range, adding new brands such as Jack Wills, Abercrombie & Fitch and Maybelline.
“Wholesale is the new retail. It is no longer about opening new shops, the high street’s biggest names want to be on board with us. That they run and operate their own websites is irrelevant. Multbrand platforms like us are becoming the Westfields of the digital age,” said Robertson.