December 29, 2011, 2:55 PM

A foreign e-retailer fashions a program to clinch Stateside sales

Providing order status data helps consumers trust buying from U.K.-based Asos.com.

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U.K.-based Asos.com accepts that American consumers may feel uncertain about buying from a foreign merchant, at least the first time, so the fashion retailer last year began offering a combination of features designed to assuage those concerns. 

For instance, Asos made free shipping and free returns standard on all orders. That’s on top of keeping consumers informed of the status of their orders at every stage of the delivery process, says Stuart Hill, head of international operations at Asos.com. “If we are going into a foreign market, we have to be domestically competitive,” he says. “For us, that means the experience the shopper gets is as close as they could get with someone else in the States.”

Every U.S. Asos.com order ships from the e-retailer’s distribution center in the United Kingdom and is placed on a New York-bound flight from London. The order clears U.S. customs electronically while in the air before being picked up by shipping carrier Newgistics Inc., which then delivers packages to the U.S. Postal Service center nearest the consumer’s delivery address. The Postal Service makes the home delivery.

At each stage, a consumer gets an e-mail alerting him to his package’s whereabouts, down to the flight number for the departure from London’s Heathrow Airport. Newgistics sends the consumer an Asos-branded e-mail with domestic tracking information once the carrier receives the package in New York, which he can then use to track the package’s progress through Newgistics’ network. Newgistics sends another Asos-branded alert when it delivers the package to the Postal Service; the message lets the consumer know his package is in his area and to expect it from the postman within the next day or two. Asos.com receives the same tracking information.

Since Asos began selling in the United States only about 18 months ago, Hill can’t directly attribute its U.S. sales growth—150% over the last 12 months—to its shipping efficiencies. He does say, however, that “where’s my order” inquiries from U.S. consumers have dropped by more than half since Asos began sending the tracking alerts through Newgistics in November 2010. The number of packages lost in transit also dropped, while the number of repeat buyers has increased. “The tracking builds confidence with consumers,” Hill says. “Once they’ve used it they generally come back to us."

Asos plc Holdings is No. 42 in Internet Retailer’s Top 300 Europe Guide.

Read more about how retailers keep customers informed about deliveries in the January issue of Internet Retailer.

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