08 January 2014 | MOF Team
With the rise of e-Commerce, and the world’s biggest fashion and lifestyle names branching out into innovative, functional and time-saving ways enabling consumers to browse and purchase items via desktop, mobile and table, the retail sphere has seen a boom in fashion and accessories apps in the market, allowing customers to access products and services 24 hours a day, from anywhere in the world.
Established in June 2000 as an ‘As Seen On Screen,’ Internet fashion retailer ASOS (depicted as a lowercase “asos” since the 2008’s logo shakeup by Ben Lewin) has grown, over the last 13 years, into one of the biggest names in online shopping across the world, pulling in 7 million active users worldwide towards the close of 2013 and annual turnover revenues of up to £750 million. Despite its rapid growth, ASOS has been able to maintain the interest and engagement of its 18-34 unisex audience, drawing in over 21 million unique website visits a month; stylistic, layout and navigational changes have allowed the brand to keep up with consumer demand and increased site traffic.
In 2011, ASOS launched a dedicated iPhone and iPad app, having previously relied on the mobile optimisation of their current website to engage and convert m-Commerce users. By introducing a dedicated mobile app to users worldwide, ASOS were able to give its consumers the opportunity to shop anywhere, anytime, any way they want.
Within the app, users can shop via ASOS.com, browsing the full catalogue of products available online, as well as saving items into a mobile shopping cart, which can be purchased either in-app, or synced with a user desktop or iPad ASOS account for later conversion. Clothing, shoes and accessories can also be added to a ‘Saved Items’ list, which can be accessed anywhere as long as a user is logged-in.
However, the ASOS app has continuously come under fire from consumers since its launch in 2011, who argue that the ‘save for later’ features do not sync across platforms, and often are not successfully saved within the app itself. Users also slammed the app in iTunes App Store reviews for reoccurring bugs that prevent items from being purchased in-app, effectively making the service defunct as consumers must still visit the website on desktop or mobile in order to buy from ASOS.
One reviewer of the app on iTunes went as far as to recommend that fellow mobile shoppers “go to Topshop instead.” So that’s exactly what we did.
The Arcadia Group’s Topshop, the British multi-national fashion and accessories retailer, have also launched an app to its consumers worldwide. Debuted, like that of ASOS, in 2011, the Topshop app differentiates itself from the Camden based online-only retailer by including a number of media features and links to content within its app, as well as allowing consumers to purchase items from the Topshop inventory.
Topshop, who offer free Wi-Fi in a number of their stores worldwide, launched their first app with a student-based promotion that encouraged using the service in-store to scan barcodes, QR codes and photograph clothing in order to earn benefits through a scavenger-style hunt throughout the chain’s bricks and mortar shops in collaboration with mobile gaming app SCVNGR. The success of this initial app offering led to the launch of today’s Topshop shopping app.
Unlike ASOS, who have no physical stores and rely on internet-only sales, Topshop were able to integrate scanning and photography features into their app to build a more complete and user-led app experience for its consumers. However, the same features that blighted the ASOS app appear in Topshop’s offering - namely the ability to save purchases, outfit inspirations and product details for access at a later date.
The Topshop Notebook functionality is one of the most prevalent complaints amongst the 2,309 1 star reviews of the app on iTunes, making up over 40% of all reviews on the App Store of the service. One user writes: “considering that Topshop is so popular, they should really take the time to make the app flawless as so many people would use it.” Problems with the Notebook include crashes, bugs and the app not syncing data immediately after import, making the feature unusable for a huge number of downloaders.
One online fashion retail brand which has marketed its offering and app towards industry insiders and the leaders, not consumers, of e-Commerce businesses is ReChannel, which has used online technology and data platforms to digitise line sheets and wholesale ordering for fashion clients. Unlike Topshop and ASOS, which focus on the sales process, ReChannel’s offering is driven around the buying process, proving that e- and m-Commerce application are on the rise in all spheres of the fashion and retail industry.
What Topshop and ASOS can learn from the failings and negative reception of their apps is that if purchasing a product is not as simple as search - click - buy, many users will abandon their on-device shopping carts and either go to the desktop site, the bricks-and-mortar store or, in ASOS’s case, another retailer. By focusing on creating functional apps that serve their purpose, rather than cramming faulty apps with distraction features, fashion e-Commerce brands can maintain customer loyalty, interaction and engagement.