International Online Retail: How ASOS Profits from Translation and Localisation

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A global outlook is key in today’s internationally intertwined world economy. Real business growth is witnessed today when a company decides to look beyond its shores and starts selling to the world, or at least a part of it. The internet, ecommerce and online retail all make it easy, in relative terms, to tap new markets. ASOS, the online fashion store, is living proof that this works.

According to the press, such as a recent article in the Express, online retailer ASOS has managed to quintuple their market value in the last three years – at present the company is worth over £3 billion. The end of the company’s growth, however, is nowhere in sight as the UK turnover for the company’s third quarter is estimated to be £64.5 million which is an increase of 39%. UK financial crisis? Where? Online retail seems to feeling a rather different “pinch”.

This story of online retail success is not solely down to domestic customers though; and this is where the lesson of this blog lies.

A great deal of ASOS’ customers stem from outside of the UK. In fact, more than 60% of the company’s total retail turnover consists of international retail sales. Impressive. Sales in the USA and the EU are expected to have grown by 59 and 55% respectively. Realising the potential of online sales, ASOS now planning on launching a Chinese version of their website later this year which is expected to make one billion in sales by 2015.

Adding to the optimism, ASOS has now recruited fashion chain Primark to be sold on their website; expectations are that sales will be boosted even further as a result of this.

Shares in the company have increased threefold over the last year and the online fashion retailer is now worth half the value of Marks & Spencer and Next, and is almost three times the size of Home Retail Group, the owner of Argos and Homebase. Chief executive Nick Robertson said UK customers had responded to investment in lower prices, while international sales now accounted for 67% of total retail sales. “We continue to see stronger growth in those countries where we have dedicated websites and in-country teams, notably in the US, France, Germany and Australia.”

Dan Coen, director at Zolfo Cooper, said ASOS, which also launched a website in Russia in May, has become “an international trailblazer for ecommerce”.

asos russian website

The addition of the localized Russian website saw its overall active customers grow to reach 6.5m, with 23.2m unique visitors a month and 12.1m registered users.

“The brand continues to reap the rewards of giving its young target consumers the latest fashion trends via convenient channels. The recent tie-up with affordable chain Primark will only help to cement Asos’ dominant position amongst its target demographic. These latest results show the success achievable by conquering international markets. Ecommerce is a global trend and a platform for UK retailers to expand abroad quickly, whilst keeping up to date with the latest consumer habits.”

ASOS isn’t the only company that is aiming their arrows at international expansion. Fashion retailer Hobbs is also looking at international markets after their annual sales experienced a 11.1% rise to £125.1 million. A great deal of this rise came from online sales, which almost doubled last year. According to Hobbs, there are plans to launch local content sites for Germany, Australia and the United Stated this autumn.

The peformance of ASOS and others in the ecommerce space demonstrate very clearly the success a company can achieve by looking at international online markets. Using your platform, i.e. website, to speak to your customers abroad is fairly simply, economical and offers potentially massive ROI. Translation and localization must of course form the heart of the strategy but again, it is a lot easier to deliver in terms of business development that more traditional methods. E-commerce and online retail are global trends which many companies need to embrace.

We are always happy to see British companies thriving on the web. It proves a point we have been making since 2004 – that websites are the future and that website localisation offers incredibly powerful international channels to market. However, it’s key to realise the importance of translation and localisation in the expansion process of ASOS, Hobbs and others. If ASOS had not put a great deal of effort and time into the translation and localisation of their websites, the company would have never grown to the size it is today.

By creating solid websites that make the consumers feel as if the website is created especially for their them and their locale, you will attract more customers and are much more likely to generate a decent profit. However, if the translations of your website are not up to par you are in danger of losing out on clients that cannot find what they are looking for or who don’t find your website appealing enough to buy something.

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