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How the ASOS app takes the lead in inspirational product discovery

Jan 15, 2021

Since its launch in 2000, ASOS has risen up the ranks to become the go-to online fashion retailer for 20-somethings worldwide. With an active customer base of 18.4 million and around 70% of its overall global sales coming directly from mobile, ASOS prides itself on creating a shopping experience built for its audience.

But with shopping habits constantly changing and consumers demanding more and more, ASOS has had to consistently adapt its experience to cater to the latest trends. From creating an omnichannel shopping journey, to building a loyal social media following and developing its own app, ASOS has always made an effort to stay one step ahead of the competition.

How the ASOS app takes the lead in inspirational product discovery - CP

So when it comes to product discovery, it's no surprise that ASOS continuously looks for new ways to adapt to the browsing shopper. But that's not an easy challenge.

In 2017 ASOS introduced a visual search function to its mobile app. Visual search allows users to upload any image and then either the exact item, or similar products will show in the results. This not only lets shoppers immediately buy an item they've already shown interest in, but offers a place for them to discover related products too. Whilst this might encourage some product discovery, as ASOS itself admits, this feature only really caters to those shoppers who know exactly what they want. And, whilst some have adapted to this "see it, search it, buy it," style of shopping, others are too familiar with traditional product categories to change the way they shop.

But, as we know, product categories are overwhelming to the browsing shopper. If offered too much or too little choice, they'll simply leave. Today's shoppers are fickle and picky. They're hard to predict and collectively shop in a variety of ways. For large global retailers like ASOS, one of the biggest challenges they currently face is how to predict what browsing shoppers want. How are you meant to know what someone who doesn't even know what they want, might want to buy? The obvious answer is, you can't. Yet, despite having over 850 brands across numerous categories on offer, the ASOS app offers a solution to combat this problem.

Thanks to its clever magazine-style design, the app offers various different browsing experiences from the homepage. ASOS knows consumers won't stick around for long. They can't predict their mood or personality, yet they need to offer an experience that encourages action. With a range of shopping paths shown in one short scroll, ASOS has proved there is a way you can offer different customer journeys without confusing, overwhelming or intimidating. 

As you open and scroll through the app homepage information such as discount codes, sales and new brand announcements are displayed straight away. And, typical of the ASOS brand, striking visual designs and Instagram style photos are used throughout. Each section is in a clearly defined box bringing the whole magazine, bite-size shopping experience to life.

For shoppers with a rough idea of what they're looking for in mind but don't know the specifics, there's a highlighted selection of the most popular and relevant categories. During summer it might be dresses, sunglasses and sandals. For winter maybe it's knitwear, coats, boots and scarves. By showcasing a handful of categories, it gives those with some idea an immediate place to browse.

Alternatively, for those that really just want to get inspired, they can choose to shop by theme. If summer is right around the corner and a customer wants to make sure they're up to date with this year's summer trends, they can choose to browse the ASOS summer edit. This page houses a whole host of relevant summer products including tops, swimwear, sun-cream and even pool party inflatables. It's the ultimate browsing playground for shoppers that want to act on impulse.

For those loyal brand advocates, ASOS also presents a small selection of brand names. Each brand can be clicked so the user can easily browse the entirety of that brand's selection on ASOS rather than searching by product. This appeals to those that don't want to experiment outside of their comfort zone. They might not know exactly what they want to buy, but they know who they want to buy from. 

Finally, for returning ASOS customers, they can see recommendations and related products based on their previous orders. ASOS ensures it provides a tailored experience by learning more about each individual customer with every visit. It can then recommend brands or specific products each specific shopper might like. While product recommendations are nothing new, by showing them on the homepage, customers feel included and involved straight away. They get the feeling that ASOS is there for them, wants them to look their best and help them on their shopping journey. 

Offering a selection of different shopping experiences might sound like a lot on paper. But, within the app itself, it really is a smooth, sleek and stylish scroll. It's the attractive design, easy navigation and simple, crisp and clean look that makes browsing shoppers stay. 

The problem of predicting what browsing shoppers want isn't going anywhere. It's something that ecommerce brands all over the world need to keep top of mind. When you have so many products or categories to offer, you can't just leave shoppers to discover for themselves. What ASOS does so well is tease its users with a small insight into its product range. They've built an app designed to cater for it's ever-growing audience.

So while finding the winning formula might be hard, by constantly experimenting and learning from your audience, you'll begin to understand how your browsing shoppers like to browse. And, when you know that, you can offer a product discovery experience that inspires and converts.

Jo Molloy

Jo Molloy