A SOS.com Ltd., a London-based global online fashion and beauty retailer, has its arms wrapped around this thing called the digital universe.
The company markets more than 50,000 branded and ASOS-labeled product lines that encompass men’s and women’s clothing, footwear, accessories, jewelry and beauty items. ASOS ships to more than 190 countries from its U.K. distribution center, and its content-specific websites target hip and chic twenty-something consumers in the U.K., United States, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Australia.
Having tackled the traditional online media world with electronic commerce — ASOS says it attracts 17.5 million unique visitors each month, and reeled in 8 million registered users through March 2012 and 4.4 million customers who’ve shopped in the last 12 months — the company’s latest retail market leverage is coming from “t-commerce,” or tablet commerce.
Last year, not long after Adobe Systems tailored its Digital Publishing Suite, Professional Edition, for tablet publishing, ASOS put out a free app for its tablet customers focusing on the acclaimed ASOS Magazine.
Transforming the 100-page magazine into a digital version proved an immediate hit for ASOS as static pages came alive through slide shows, 360-degree product views, popups, color-changing demos and audio and video — all with the ease of a swipe.
Duncan Edwards, editorial and design director for ASOS Magazine, sums up the impact of the digital version with the word “shoppable.” The average basket size for online orders placed through the ASOS Magazine app, he says, is already about 30 percent higher than orders placed directly through the ASOS.com website.
Edwards says the key benefit of the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite tablet app, along with its obvious links for shopping, “is the ability to showcase the product beautifully with endless close-ups. Because there is no restriction on space, every item can be viewed full-screen.”
Adobe targets its digital publishing suite software to large publishers of magazines, newspapers, catalogs and other publications. The software piggybacks on the Adobe InDesign platform, allowing designers the immediacy to edit content in the final stages prior to publishing.
“The magazine app is quite simply an international marketing tool,” Edwards says. “It allows us to publish shoppable content to new customers anywhere on the globe. Quite a lot of the people who download the app are fashion tastemakers — such as bloggers — and this gives us enormous reach in terms of social advocacy.”
ASOS selected Adobe Digital Publishing Suite in order to move quickly into digital publishing. InDesign, already widely used by publishers, allowed ASOS to borrow from existing print content when developing its digital showcases. Additionally, the suite saved the retailer from having to invest in and create its own tablet app.
“We wanted the iPad version of the magazine to be really simple and easy to read,” Edwards says. “This meant leaving out some of the smaller ... news pages in favor of bigger ‘timeless’ stories ... We want the magazine to feel relevant even if you download it, say, three months after it was published.”
Adobe is counting on expectant designers to press the suite into the mainstream. Retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Benjamin Moore Paints are aggressively employing the platform in their burgeoning t-commerce efforts.
“The designers that a company has working for them, who already know the branding value, the look and the feel, the color palette, the fonts, can continue to do what they do really well,” says Colin Fleming, Adobe digital publishing evangelist.
Fleming says the tablet platform wins in the digital publishing realm for consumers as it “has a good sense of almost being print-like, but it goes further.” The flexibility of tablet devices allows for a dual consumption of media for broad and mixed use in many places in the home and office, such as when watching television, he adds.
“People like to touch and swipe and pinch and zoom things,” he says. “They get very excited by that interactivity. It’s an easy way to extend the experience.”
Dick’s Sporting Goods tablet app allows consumers to see all the color combinations of a single shoe style. Consumers can also swipe easily to move from page to page, Fleming says. “A sense of interactivity and involvement with the publication really helps people return to a publication.”
Additionally, through the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite app platform, all content essentially is “local,” Fleming says. “You download it once and read it wherever you are. Even if you are on an airplane with no Wi-Fi connectivity, the content is there for you to consume. It’s a really rich experience for reading and consumption and translates very nicely.”
Developing tablet market
Market researcher Gartner forecast in April that media tablet sales will reach 118.9 million units in 2012, a 98 percent increase in just one year. Gartner estimates that 369.2 million units will be sold by 2016.
Lynly Schambers-Lenox, Adobe group product marketing manager for the Digital Publishing Suite platform, says skyrocketing sales of tablet devices are compelling retailers to develop strategies to leverage the activity. An Adobe study released in May says website traffic from tablets is outstripping that of smartphones by 10 to 1, and that by 2014 tablets will make up about 10 percent of all web traffic.
Schambers-Lenox says as the tablet market develops, it is poised to transform m-commerce from a largely marketing and information platform to robust commerce.
“Over time, we are going to see tablets play multiple roles,” she says. “They are going to be a part of a marketing mix. They are going to influence shopping channels, they are going to drive additional revenue through the application itself and they are going to do things to retain customers and attract other customers. It’s a win-win across the board in terms of influencing all these different pressure points on a business.”
Schambers-Lenox says mobile tablets and their larger screen sizes are presenting another significant element to the retail omni-channel universe of the physical store, e-commerce, social media pages and mobile devices. “It seems to all tie in very nicely how tablets are going to complement existing channels and generate additional revenue streams,” she says.
ASOS is convinced, as Edwards says the ceiling is high for what the company can accomplish on the platform. “We’re looking at doing more HTML overlays with live content this year to make the app more dynamic.”