Asos is planning to ramp up its search capabilities to include personalised results, as it continues to work on improving its customer experience.

Asos CIO Pete Marsden is developing personalised search

Chief information officer Pete Marsden says it is personalising search results and enabling shoppers to use more specific search terms.

The etail giant says customers who use search are 30% more likely to buy something than those who find their own way round the site.

Marsden, speaking at the SDL Innovate event this week, says search is a crucial part of Asos’ arsenal of tools to help shoppers navigate their way around its 75,000 products.

Search results will soon be personalised, meaning the products shown in search results will change according to a customer’s browsing history and personal information, such as their size. “Knowing more about the customer helps us get better results,” Marsden says.

The etailer also plans to develop its search to be more specific, meaning shoppers will be able to search by size, colour and texture, as well as by product type.

Marsden says: “Our range continues to grow and the quicker the customer can get to the product the better.” He adds search is likely to develop beyond what is possible at the moment. “Customers don’t just want to search for a particular product. They want to search for what’s fashionable, what people are wearing to weddings and parties, they want to look for events and trends.”

He adds that this targeted approach was even more important on mobile devices, which now account for a third of Asos’ sales. “The display of results is different on a mobile – you can’t scroll through 20,000 results so it has to be even more targeted.”

The retailer’s search system is one of several that are now hosted on the cloud. Its search partner, SDL, uses Amazon Web Services to host its technology, and the migration to the cloud is part of Asos’ response to a need for a growing infrastructure - its only data centre is nearly full.

Marsden says this increase in cloud technology is also caused by a need to introduce as much agility into the business’s IT systems as possible. It is particularly helpful for areas such as big data, he adds. “It makes it easy to do massive computations.”

Marsden is using the cloud to help increase the agility of the business, because, he says, business strategies are changing every two to three years and IT systems need to keep up.

He said agility comes from a number of sources, but that working with the right vendors is particularly important. “It comes from having the right partners with the right products at the right place.” He added he tries to work with market leaders in each area, and join that up into a framework.

The best vendors to work with, he adds, are those whose research and development is focused on the areas retailers want them to study. “We work with some software companies who spend millions on research and development and then say ‘come and see what we’ve built.’ That’s no use to us.” The best approach, he adds, is to ask retailers what they want and focus R&D on that.