Anyone who is familiar with the Econsultancy blog will know that we’ve always been big fans of ASOS.

However its crown has begun to slip in recent months and in September the retailer was forced to issue a third profit warning due to difficult sales conditions and higher investment in technology and infrastructure.

Personally I’m still a semi-regular ASOS customer, but I have started to become a bit tired of its email marketing messages that constantly promote some kind of sale or discount.

Since July 27 I have received 35 emails from ASOS, which roughly averages out at one email every 2-3 days.

19 of those emails advertised a sale or discount, which ultimately chips away at ASOS’s ability to sell anything at full price.

I frequently end up browsing ASOS’s site after receiving one of its sales emails, but only when the discount gets to around 40%-50%. 

I can’t imagine that I would ever pay full price for something from ASOS as I’m aware that another sales email is always just around the corner.

US department store Macy’s has a similar email strategy, and I’ve previously written about how its constant discounting undermines its brand image.

However Macy’s compounds the problem by using dreadful email creative. Does ASOS commit the same offence?

I’d like to think not, but here’s a look at some of ASOS’s sales emails. And for more on this topic, read my post on why ASOS's aftersales emails are so effective.

SALE! Get up to 50% off now...

This creative is an interesting twist on the usual straightforward sales emails. The items are presented as a ‘stylist edit’ selected by one of ASOS’s fashion experts.

It even includes the stylist’s Twitter and Instagram details in case one should wish to follow him.

Recipients can also access the entire range of sale items should these 10 products not tickle their fancy.

Click to enlarge

One downside is that this email isn’t personalised, so all customers receive the same product options. But then the whole point is that you’re being given fashion advice, rather than being shown products based on your previous purchase history.

Last chance: 25% off smart wear

Another email that presents a selection of sale items that have been chosen by one of ASOS’s stylists.

It also includes a video of the stylist giving advice on how to dress on a date, which is a neat way of tying additional content to the sales message.

The layout is similar to the previous example – clear images of the clothes alongside the sale price, plus links to the rest of the ASOS site.

Up to 60% off leather jackets

A simple, direct email message this time, promoting a single product line rather than a more general sale.

There is just one image and a countdown clock to try and create a sense of urgency.

The layout is clear and to-the-point so recipients aren’t distracted from the task in-hand – buying lots of leather jackets.

This was one of my main criticisms of Macy’s. Its emails are extremely cluttered so the impact is diluted and recipients have to work to find out what is on offer.

 

25% off layering! We’ve got you covered...

Everyone loves Back To The Future so this email content is a clever, creative idea. However it doesn’t really relate to the subject line, so it’s ultimately a bit confusing. 

Also, the ‘layering’ sales items appear further down the screen and there are only three suggested items compared to four for the Marty McFly outfit.

Our up-to-75%-off sale: now 10% better!

ASOS dug deep for its summer sale, offering up to 85% off some of its products.

This layout follows the same template as the previous example. A clear message and a simple design means recipients won’t get distracted.

Get an extra 15% off the sale. Boom

A familiar design. This isn’t a bad thing though, as it means recipients will gradually learn what to expect and know how to interact with ASOS’s emails.

Final clearance! Game on...

This is one of the few examples I could find where ASOS strayed from the templates shown above.

The main image doesn’t show any products, it just uses a funky graphic to emphasise the clearance sale.

In conclusion...

ASOS generally plays it safe with its sale emails and sticks to one of two templates. This is no bad thing, as it means shoppers know what to expect and can more easily navigate the email content.

The layouts are also relatively simple so recipients don’t have to work too hard to find something they might be interested in.

If you compare ASOS’s uncluttered design to Macy’s headache-inducing email messages, you can easily see which is more likely to achieve its objectives.

I also like the fact that ASOS uses its stylists to curate sale items within email messages. This is a nice change from the unsubtle sales tactics I’m used to seeing from fashion retailers.

However, I remain unconvinced about the frequency of ASOS’s sales email. It ultimately diminishes the impact and conditions shoppers to expect a discount every time they shop at ASOS.

David Moth

Published 14 October, 2014 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Kath Pay

Kath Pay, Snr Consultant at Holistic Email MarketingSmall Business Multi-user

Great article David...although in my humble opinion it's not the frequency that ASOS can potentially be faulted on but rather as you say, the number of discounted offers. 8 out of the 14 emails you show above have '% off' offers associated with them - meaning that over 50% of these emails are discounted offers - which is what I believe you were really highlighting.

Whether these are sent weekly, monthly or yearly, it matters not. If 50-60% of total emails sent from your email programme (at whatever frequency) are discount-oriented, then most brands would potentially be in danger of conditioning their customers to be discount-oriented.

over 3 years ago

Philip Storey

Philip Storey, Founder & Principal Consultant at Enchant Agency

It looks as though there are two key issues here:

1. Segmentation and targeting - their frequency seems to have categorised you as someone with a high propensity to purchase. However, it could just be that these discount emails are sent to all / all that have not lapsed. I hope it is the former...

2. Content strategy - as you rightly point out, a lot of the content is generic and it isn't clear what will happen when you click one of the fashion edits. The products should be in your size, and in stock and preferably by brands that you have implicitly or explicitly indicated that you are interested in, in the past.

It is tricky to combine personalised product suggestions throughout sale periods - usually because stock levels drop quickly or are already very low. We have developed strategies for clients that pull in their size information, stock levels and preferred brands and if there aren't enough relevant products for a recipient in a segment, they are excluded from the campaign or they don't see the product section. Just one way to help improve the customer experience with the more aggressive sale emails.

What is really at stake here, is David's propensity to act / open / click in future. He's been trained to wait for the 50% off, devaluing all of the things that are great about ASOS, with the recipient buying on price instead of brand and value.

over 3 years ago

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George Liapis, eMarketing at Buldoza S.A.

Kudoz for the analysis David, but I think the whole "feeling" of the article tends to be sth like "ASOS SPAM: They send too many similar emails with lots of offers - that's why they lose money", which is definetely imho not based on facts.

The facts are that they had a large fire, made investments in technology & logistics and had lower sales than expected, eventually having higher revenue, but lower profit.

It is also a fact that most said in your article are speculations - you of course don't have any data to back them up (open rates / conversion rates / sales / avg. basket size & value / unsubscribe rates / etc.). Please don't get me wrong, they might be 100% valid and spot on, but I believe that I have overheard the term "don't SPAM" - sth that if done correctly, may have excellent results.

And btw, ASOS does segment & MV tests. I have different emails than yours :)

over 3 years ago

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Victoria Wood

Great article and very true. I am an ASOS lover, but getting increasingly annoyed at their spam emails.

It's also conditioned me to only check what's on sale on their website - rather than trawling like I used to before.

Maybe that's the idea - maybe that's where the profit is? Who knows!

over 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

Hi all, thanks for your comments.

@Kath, I meant the frequency of discounts and special offers was the problem, not the frequency of email messages in general. Sorry if this wasn’t clear.

@Philip, the email account I used for this article is a fake one that I setup purely so I can keep track of how different brands use email marketing. I’ve never bought anything using this account, so it could be that ASOS is trying to use discounts to lure me into making that first purchase.

@George, though I can see why you read the article that way (i.e. discount emails = falling profits) that wasn’t really the point I was trying to make. We’d been discussing ASOS’s falling share price in the office just before I wrote the article so it was front of mind, hence why I included it in the intro.

I also don’t feel these emails constitute spam, as I willingly signed up for them. I just feel the reliance on discounting doesn’t reflect well on the brand.

And to your third point, I’m sure a business the size of ASOS does a lot of segmentation/audience profiling. But that said, I checked the emails from this Hotmail account (a fake one I setup for work) vs. the emails ASOS sends to my work account (the one tied to my genuine ASOS profile) and they were identical.

@Victoria, there must be some logic to the constant discounting, and it’s also true to say that ASOS isn’t the only retailer that’s guilty of this tactic.

over 3 years ago

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Edmund Jones

Agree that it is not the frequency of the emails that are an issue as most of these are coherent and on brand.The issue with the communication is the frequency and depth of the discounts. There is no dispute, numerous empirical studies has shown that discounting can undermine brand equity over time and has a particularly damaging effect on established brands as it undermines perceived value. However discounting can have a useful role to play.....especially if targeted and used selectively to trial, reward or thank customer. We don't know if Asos is targeting the writer as he

over 3 years ago

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