Millennials’ favourite place to shop online for clothing is launching a US invasion

Asos current homepage. Asos
  • Asos is a 17-year-old e-commerce fashion brand based in the UK.
  • The brand has found success with targeting twenty-somethings in the UK and Europe, with nearly $US3 billion in sales globally.
  • Asos is now taking its success to the US, doubling down with a new warehouse fulfillment center in Atlanta.

The name of British e-commerce store Asos stands for “as seen on screen” – shorthand for a website aimed to sell the looks you saw on TV and in movies, bringing them off the screen and into real life.

“That was how we got on the map,” CEO Nick Beighton told Business Insider.

A look for an Asos photoshoot. Asos

But over the nearly 18 years the company has been around, the “screen” has changed from silver to small to smartphone, and Asos has changed with it.

The company is now seen as one of the foremost online apparel sellers geared toward millennials – Beighton says the brand’s target is twenty-somethings, but 30% of sales are from shoppers over 30.

As of 2017, global annual sales for the brand are now nearly 2 billion British pounds sterling in sales (roughly $US2.8 million). The company has been profitable for 13 years, and an analyst from Global Data called the brand the biggest success story of holiday 2017.

“Asos continues to streak ahead of its multichannel competitors,” Sofie Willmott told the Guardian. “Its agility and willingness to adapt to changing shopping habits coupled with its confidence to invest in new initiatives are key contributors to its ongoing success.”

Asos has now has 16 million customers globally shopping 85,000 product. It recently launched a beauty brand selling skincare and makeup that has already become one of the biggest in its native country.

Asos is invading the US

In August, it commissioned a new fulfillment center in Atlanta to better serve American consumers. The new warehouse will be one million square feet and is expected to open in the fall.

Sales from the US have grown organically since the mid-2000s when the company started shipping internationally, and international sales are about 60% of the total.

Asos CEO Nick Beighton, Asos

North American sales currently account for 12% of total, but the US is one of the company’s top 5 markets. Sales grew in the region 40% last quarter, and for Beighton, the challenge is to continue that.

The e-commerce landscape has changed dramatically since the 2000s, and customers not willing to pay international shipping fees and are too impatient to wait longer than two days for a package to arrive.

“In the US we are probably six out of 10 in comparison to the UK,” said Beighton, and the object is to bring US more in line with the UK, including Asos consistent same-day and two-day shipping options and a larger breadth of product.

Beighton says that across the world, twenty-something buying patterns are pretty much the same. Globalization means the most popular items Asos sells in the US, UK, and EU are pretty much the same, taking cues from the same internationally popular influencers. But that doesn’t mean Asos can’t bring Americans something the region lacks.

Asos headquarters. Asos

“It’s not about bringing American brands American consumers because that’s pretty well served,” Beighton said. “It’s about bringing the world’s best fashion to the American twenty-something combined with our own brand, which is also pretty compelling.”

Asos complements its 850 third-party brands with its own private label brand, that Beighton said is growing and expanding rapidly into new categories.

Technology is key for its growth

AI supports initiatives like Asos’ visual search (called Style Match), which lets shoppers upload pictures to find similar options for sale on the website, and chatbots that can do things like help customers shop for gifts.

Asos has also leaned heavily into mobile shopping, which has become an increasingly popular way for customers to shop – especially younger shoppers. To Beighton, it’s all about being where the customer is, and he and the company are already considered where to reach customers next.

“It’s mobile for now but that will change again in the future and we’re looking at where that will go,” he said.

An Asos warehouse in the UK. Asos