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By Rick Davis

Like many digitally native companies, ASOS planned for international success from the start. 

Established in 2000, when pundits said fast fashion would never work online, they quickly built a global following by creating a simple, but unique, proposition: Celebrity-linked clothing and accessories - if it was on a character in a movie, or worn by a star on a red carpet, you could buy a version of it from ASOS (or As Seen On Screen, as it was known at the time). However, it wasn't all plain sailing, Kylie Minogue dresses, and Tyler Durden jackets.

As the success of ASOS grew, logistics and delivery became an increasingly complex issue. So, in 2014 ASOS decided they needed to team with a logistics provider who could take them to the next level.

The challenge of simple systems integration

When you have a website with over 85,000 rapidly changing SKUs, integrating IT systems with a logistics provider carries inherent risk. Rather than add complexity to the ASOS' IT infrastructure, we saw that the solution lay in simplicity.

Parcel Connect's eConnect software could be integrated with their existing systems with minimal programming. Just one basic install enabled ASOS to ship internationally to 28 European countries with a single label - and offer their shoppers a greater choice of delivery services.

The challenge of fluctuating shipment volumes

ASOS was developing new markets across 14 European countries. Some, with very high demand, needed a cost-effective way to ship in volume. Others, where the brand was becoming established, needed a reliable way to ship smaller amounts.

The answer was to create a blended transport option. New markets utilized Parcel Connect's standard network option achieving transit times of around 3-5 days. Mature markets benefited from Direct Injection with high volumes, freighted straight to the destination country. Bypassing sort stages helped push costs down while still meeting industry-leading time slots.

The challenge of the demanding shopper

Twenty-something fashion-forward customers demand convenience. The typical ASOS customer is young, busy, and impatient for their hot new look. They expect certainty; goods delivered where they want them when they want them. However, these expectations differ from country to country. In some, doorstep delivery is the norm. In others, shoppers prefer to collect from a service point or locker.

The key to meeting these expectations is in the unique way Parcel Connect is structured. DHL's world-class network is teamed with best-in-class domestic operators - under the management of DHL. This provides the flexibility (and quality control) to provide exactly the level of service each customer wants. Pre-notification, re-routing, or delivery to an alternate address can all be part of our standard service.

The challenge of data transmission

You might think that providing this level of customer service across 14 European countries, via a mix of networked and direct logistics, with fulfillment from different warehouses and a number of last-mile providers, could result in communication issues.

But the beauty of Parcel Connect is that eConnect automatically transfers PAN data to all our transport organizations - no workarounds, no extra IT integration. Better still, Track and Trace information is forwarded to the system from all the organizations to enable ASOS - and their customers - to monitor shipment progress in real-time, providing a better user experience throughout the whole process. It also means that DHL can pro-actively monitor activity and address logistics issues before they arise.

The challenge of online returns

In the online fast-fashion industry, returns can run as high as 40%. With tight margins, ASOS needed a returns solution that was fast, convenient, and customer-friendly.

Having the largest network of service points in Europe certainly helped here. The 'single label' solution also worked for returns. Dispatched orders include a returns label that directs the shipment back to the returns center. All the customer needs to do is take the unwanted goods back to the locker or store and Parcel Connect collects. Goods can then be routed back to where ASOS needs them for sorting and returning to stock. This keeps inventory moving and wastage costs lower. What's more, returns are all part of the Parcel Connect standard service, so ASOS is not suddenly hit with unexpected costs from goods coming back.

The challenge of standards

It's hard to scale up when your shipping provider charges you based on individual parcel weight or dimensions. To keep growing the business, ASOS needed predictable logistics costs. The answer was a partner who could deliver to - and from - every one of their markets at a set standard and price. Someone who would ship any package up to 31.5 kg and 120 cm - or even bulkier goods - with certainty. And handle any returns as part of the deal. In short, a partner who could deliver a standard, high-quality service, flexed to suit ASOS' developing business model.

The challenge of reporting

Every successful business needs to keep a handle on the metrics. Performance reporting is built into the Parcel Connect standard, with network delivery and returns performance included. But we also understand that large businesses require reporting at a KPI level, so we provide ASOS with flexible adaptations to specific reporting requirements.

The challenge of partnership

So what makes the relationship between ASOS and DHL so fruitful? The simple answer is 'Partnership'. From day 1, we have worked as trusted partners. That level of partnership can be seen in the Key Account Managers who are located close to ASOS' Headquarters in the UK. Through the Account and Program Managers based in Germany who drive the design and implementation of new solutions across mainland Europe. It can be seen in the specialized Customer Service team that works directly with ASOS' own customer care team to steer transports and monitor performance. And it can be seen in the central customer operations support that fixes escalated problems with local teams and works side-by-side with the company's own people.

From that first call back in 2014, DHL has tailored the Parcel Connect product around the needs and ambitions of ASOS. It is designed to be flexible, convenient, and simple. But most of all, it is designed to be tailored, with an ethos of seamless customer service. If you'd like to find out how Parcel Connect can support your business ambitions, arrange a call with one of our e-commerce specialists today.