ASOS: smart social media to ‘sell more stuff’

Today I came across one of the most interesting uses of social media I’ve seen, whilst looking for sunglasses for one of my three teenage daughters on ASOS. This online fashion website is growing like mad, with UK sales up 18% to £244m and international retail sales up 52% cent to £361.7m in the four months to December 2016 according to this report. Whilst hesitating over which pair of sunglasses to buy, I noticed a button called #AsSeenOnMe. I clicked on it to see a series of attractive photos of real people wearing the same sunglasses and looking very cool. I decided to dig deeper into #AsSeenOnMe and share some of my findings below.


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1. Smart curation

#AsSeenOnMe is powered by some s**t hot tech from a company called Olapic, who scour the web for user-generated-content (UGC) that features ASOS clothing, ‘curating’ the best on-brand content using a combination of machine learning and human expertise. This UGC is then re-posted onto different parts of the ASOS ‘digital ecosystem’. Unilever Ventures were smart enough to invest in Olapic, which was sold last year to Monotype for ¢130million.

2. SMS = sell more stuff

#AsSeenOnMe is an example of using social media to help SMS = sell more stuff. ASOS can do this because it online brand with a ‘direct’ path to purchase.:

  • Instagram: shows aspirational images of clothing on real people, including a product reference to find the product on
  • Website: when you look at a product on ASOS, you can click on #AsSeenOnMe to see other cool people wearing the item AND other gear (e.g. accessories, clothing) that you can add them to your basket. This trick of showing different clothing styled together as ‘a look’ has been done for years using mannequins in stores, but here it is super-charged by using real people.

3. Tap into social proof

The product shots are appealing but by using curated images of real people they also leverage ‘social proof’: seeing a product that looks good on other people who have bought it adds to the attractiveness. And 76% of people find UGC more honest that conventional advertising, according to Olapic.

4. Penetration is key

The success of ASOS is a good example of how the key to growth is penetration. The company reported that “More customers are spending more,” suggesting that both penetration AND loyalty drove up sales. However, the actual data shows that penetration was much more important:

  • Active customers (penetration) up +25%
  • Average basket value (loyalty) up +2%

In conclusion, this is a good example of a brand making smart use of social media to not only build brand image but also to sell more stuff.