Asos was one of the first online-only fashion retailers to enter the market, but how has its offer changed since it launched in 2001?

As Seen on Screen – as it was then known – has come a long way in the 16 years the business has been operating.

Now we can look back on the site’s incremental development and note the decisions taken in its first few years of operation that set it up to become one of the UK’s ecommerce success stories.

International strategy from the off

Looking at the 2001 site with its inaugural branding and strapline, what jumps out is that it embarked on an international ecommerce strategy from the start. The site highlighted worldwide delivery, had a call to action for US customers, and 21 currency options.

Other aspects of the proposition that customers have come to know and love included free delivery for UK customers over a threshold and delivery tracking.

However, the navigation was focused on finding products related to individual celebrities, movies and TV shows and there were few brand names sold on the site.

Star style strapline appears

By 2004, the site had rebranded to Asos, and the focus had moved much more towards selling fashion, as referenced by the ‘star style’ strapline and left-hand navigation that highlighted key categories.

Also interesting is that the etailer was already splitting its product range into ASOS woman and ASOS man, an information architecture choice it continues to make today.

Other nice touches on the 2004 site included a prominent basket showing the number of items added and the combined total, and flags to highlight some of the main transaction currencies.

Asos is known for shooting all its own product photos, and there was evidence of this already, with the same model used in all imagery on the homepage.

By 2007 the homepage design had moved forwards substantially, now acting as a front door to the site, with the woman, man and beauty categories all having their own underlying homepages.

Editorial style introduced

This page also highlights how ASOS had rebranded its newsletter, evident on the 2004 version, to style news. Its daily email was an early example of content marketing done well, and helped the etailer grow awareness and merchandise specific products and offers.

The 2010 picture shows the Asos Men homepage, and the ‘discover fashion online’ strapline had appeared, and its still in use today. Also evident is greater use of editorial-style imagery and a broadened offer with more of a department store feel, with designer, outlet and kids categories signposted separately.

By 2013 the header has been simplified, back to just men and women with mega menus for each, and it has remained this way since.

In 2016 remarkably few substantial changes have been made to the desktop homepage, as ASOS has focused increasingly on mobile, improvements to its international proposition such as zonal pricing, apps for some international markets and tweaks to the proposition around later cut-off times for orders.

Looking back at the ASOS site over the years, it’s clear the strategy to attract an international audience was there from the start, and the focus on becoming the one-stop fashion destination online has come later.

Given this early focus, it’s no surprise that ASOS has been the number one visited fashion website in the world for its key audience of 18-34 year olds since 2012.

  • Mark Pinkerton is director of optimisation at Practicology