I have been a long-time admirer of the ASOS user experience.

For over six years I have been using examples from throughout the site's end-to-end experience in training and presentations.

Dare I say ASOS is the epitome of “ecommerce best practice”?

The reality is the core user experience of ASOS has changed very little over the years and for good reason – it’s an exceptional example of delivering an intuitive, persuasive, streamlined browsing and buying experience.

What continually surprises me is how many major retailers still haven’t built some of the core foundations that ASOS did years ago.

In this article I share what I feel, in my experience, are things which not only make ASOS exceptional, but should also provide inspiration for other retailers.

Site-wide, immediate visibility of its USP

Long before most retailers realised the importance of communicating their unique selling points site-wide in a high visibility area, ASOS had featured three banners underneath its primary navigation.

Lessons to learn from ASOS include:

  • Ensure the messages stand out visually and attract attention.
  • Make it clear there are distinct messages.
  • Use colour/design touches to draw particular attention to the primary message you want to communicate at any one time.
  • Make it clear if the message is clickable to find out more.

Opportunities for A/B testing above and beyond what ASOS is currently doing:

  • Use icons to provide visual clues to differentiate the messages.
  • Ensure you communicate your USPs across devices – don’t hide them when you simplify your mobile UI, visitors still need to be persuaded.

Streamlined navigation experience

For as long as I can remember, ASOS has had an incredibly simple primary navigation bar.

The reality is, it offers every visitor a simple and relevant first choice to start exploring the huge product range.

ASOS was also one of the early retailers to provide a mega menu, but not just any mega menu – it has always been tailored to suit a range of buyer types and expose a wide range of the brand areas i.e. Marketplace.

Lessons to learn from ASOS include:

  • Simplify the primary navigation to reduce the choices visitors have in order to start exploring the product range.
  • Provide structure and clarity of the types of navigation categories visitors have to choose from.
  • If you have new-in and/or sale items, provide quick access to these areas.
  • Use cookies to store which core category a visitor spends most time in, and when they come back to your homepage URL, redirect them back in to that category (this is a subtly executed spot of personalisation that ASOS provides).

Opportunities for A/B testing above and beyond what ASOS is currently doing:

  • Repeat key USPs at the bottom or in the side of the mega menu.
  • Introduce imagery to attract attention to core categories or relevant/seasonal ranges.

Continually communicate UVPs and USPs throughout the user journey

Not content with making its USP messages “pop” off the page in the header, ASOS has never been shy about repeating these message throughout the user journey.

It’s something that another brand I admire, AO.com, also embraces, and I’ve detailed in-depth how it does this previously in my article titled: AO.com: The best ecommerce experience available online?

So many other retailers simply don’t do this – they feel that as they have a USP bar in their site-wide header, that is enough and they don’t want to waste precious space repeating these messages in important real estate on core shopping pages.

Lessons to learn from ASOS include:

  • Explore ways of using subtle animations as visitors scroll down a page to draw attention to key messages (ASOS does this on its homepage with the flying plane).
  • Consider ways to repeat a key message in a highly visible part of the product page (ASOS does this under the product price).
  • Add a key message aimed at persuading visitors to purchase in the bottom of the mini-basket.

  • Promote key messages in the shopping basket, whilst ensuring you don’t take the focus away from checking out.
  • Utilise different visual techniques to draw attention to messages, such as simple, common iconography (remember people typically spend 99% of their time on other websites).

Opportunities for A/B testing above and beyond what ASOS is currently doing: 

  • Repeat key USPs at the bottom or on the side of your checkout pages.
  • In addition to promoting USPs in the site-wide header, introduce a section within the footer which communicates core brand messages.

Provide a simplified, persuasive, non-committal way to begin building up your desired products

Wishlist functionality has been one of the out-of-box features for retailers since the late 1990s, but almost every retailer in 2016 requires visitors to register/sign-in to use it.

For over five years, ASOS has allowed visitors to start adding items to their “saved items” without any mention or request to create an account or sign-up.

Not only does this provide a seamless browsing experience for visitors whether they are logged in or not, but ASOS has always made “Save for Later” a core action it wants visitors to take.

Back in 2010, James Hart (the then Ecommerce Director at ASOS) told me that the site literally sees hundreds of thousands of “saves” made every day.

Most retailers tend to see wishlists or saved items as a nice to have but very much a low priority focus area for visitors during the browsing experience.

ASOS is the complete opposite for good reason.

It knows the importance of the commitment and consistency principle, which has been proven to demonstrate the increased probability of a purchase when people make a smaller initial commitment to lead up to the actual purchase.

Lessons to learn from ASOS include:

  • Don’t force visitors to have to register or sign-up in order to use the save/love/wishlist function – use cookies initially, then encourage visitors to sign-up so they can access their list across devices.
  • Don’t hide away the wishlist/saved items area – encourage visitors to use this functionality and visit this area, giving it similar prominence to your shopping bag.
  • Allow visitors to save items directly from the product listing pages – don’t just provide this on the product page.
  • Within the wishlist/saved items area, allow visitors to move products to their shopping bag, or scroll through individual product images without having to go to the product page.
  • Integrate the wishlist/saved items area in to the shopping basket to encourage increased average order values and average order quantities.
  • Make saving for later an integral part of the mobile browsing experience.

Opportunities for A/B testing above and beyond what ASOS is currently doing: 

  • Introduce a section at the bottom of your browsing pages which promote the items in your saved items area, in addition to the typical section showing recently viewed items.

A focus on simplicity throughout the core user experience

Starting from the primary navigation but moving in to filtering product listing pages, the redesigned product page template, through to the shopping basket and checkout forms, simplicity is the name of the game.

Why reinvent the wheel when you can just deliver the essentials really well, then adding in layers of engagement and persuasion to differentiate and keep visitors coming back?

ASOS has embraced the approach of utilising white space to provide clarity on the core functions that visitors are looking for, with the product page being a primary example.

The product page also provides an excellent example of encouraging visitors to browse through the available images within the big arrows.

It sounds simple because it is, and it’s this simplicity that people really want in the vast majority of cases in all my years of experience.

Lessons to learn from ASOS include:

  • Focus on delivering a smooth checkout process – form best practice is your best friend, yet for many retailers, that friend is nowhere to be seen – including the often unfriendly error messages when things go wrong.

Opportunities for A/B testing above and beyond what ASOS is currently doing: 

  • Streamline the add-to-bag experience if visitors haven’t selected a size or colour, rather than displaying an error message alert box which visitors have to interact with in order to make a selection. Very.co.uk does this extremely well and I know that it performed significantly better when it was A/B tested against the current ASOS approach.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading and I hope it has provided ideas and opportunities which you can build in to the foundations of your ecommerce experience.

So what are the highlights of the ASOS user experience for you? What areas do you feel it could improve upon?

Which other retailers do what ASOS does but more intuitively or more persuasively? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Paul Rouke

Published 24 May, 2016 by Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke is Founder & CEO at PRWD, author, creator of the CRO Maturity Audit, and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up with him on LinkedIn.

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Comments (7)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

ASOS could easily personalize that huge menu, with almost no work and without complicating the UI, by highlighting entries leading to the products that the current shopper was browsing last time. So they could resume shopping a little bit quicker.
https://www.freshrelevance.com/features/home-page-personalization

over 1 year ago

Adam Churcher

Adam Churcher, Creative Director at Made by Magnitude

Totally agree, Paul! ASOS is one of my favourite online retailers to use due to the simplicity of the platform. I appreciate that they can update their design style and collateral without impacting their core functionality and experience too.

over 1 year ago

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Nick Paterniti, Export at CCIWA

ASOS 'Customer Service' is a joke. Have you personally tried to resolve an issue through their system?

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153326816331362&set=o.181113552027241&type=3&theater

over 1 year ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Pete - thanks for your comment and for promoting your product! Maybe ASOS will get in touch

@Adam - thanks for your feedback. Simplicity certainly is the name of the game here - and the fact that white space can be one of your biggest assets.

@Nick - oh dear that doesn't sound great - thankfully I've not had your kind of experience before

over 1 year ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

poor ASOS in difficulty today too - website down 22 hours and counting.
http://www.scivisum.co.uk/blog/asos-com-website-outage-lasts-overnight-lessons-learned/

over 1 year ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

So apart from when the website is down then @Deri!

over 1 year ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

Indeed, very embarrassing for ASOS to be down for 24 hour; yet no one should gloat 'there but for the grace of God go I'

And it doesn't seem to have hurt their sales growth any, 30% growth in the 4 months to June 30th
- http://ecommercenews.eu/asos-thinks-will-profit-brexit/

over 1 year ago

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