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How to shop online – Asos101

I’ve had heaps of people ask me over the last while for advice on how to shop on international sites, especially e-tailers like Asos.  At one stage I kept forwarding on the same step-by-step email of my experience (its easy peasy!), so I thought I’d do a proper job & share a couple of tips here to get you started.

Is it safe?

This is probably the one question I get asked the most. And yes, in my experience (& I have placed over 20 orders with Asos in the last 2 years) it totally is.

How do I know my size?

A sample of the size guide, but it has a lot more info than this – very handy

Asos carries 100’s different brands (including their own label) & as you can imagine, sizing differs from brand to brand just like Kelso would from LTD locally. There is a size guide/ chart online that helps a lot as it’s based on your actual size in centimetres, so get your tape measure out.

A screen shot from the Fit Visualiser tool

More recently, they also have added the Fit Visualiser tool to help with sizing but its only available on selected items at this point. I haven’t tried it yet, but it really looks relatively simple. Basically, you find your size by measuring a similar item in your closet to the one you’re buying, that already fits (i.e. in this case you don’t measure your body but the garment).

If in doubt, I say go up a size. You can always have something that’s too big tailored (yes it is going to cost you a bit more). If something is too small on the other hand, it’s pretty much a write-off.

Delivery & lead times (to SA)

  • Standard delivery – free worldwide! (my choice, I’m frugal like that!) & takes  6-12 days
  • Express delivery – 20 GBP’s (+- R 280) & takes 4-5 days

These lead times are according to their site but I would double them realistically. The hold-up is often not their fault, but SA customs (or God forbid some post office/truck drivers strike). In terms of how I physically receive my order, I would normally use my work address as the delivery address. Usually I get either a note from the post office to collect or I’m contacted by a courier company that my parcel is in SA & they confirm a delivery time – both ways work really well.


Asos includes a return bag with printed address labels in every order but I’ve never returned anything so I can’t really speak to this much. I’ve always thought it’s too much effort. You can read here for more on their returns policy.

Getting started…. So what do I do 1st?

  • If you do nothing else, I suggest you sign up the Asos newsletter on their homepage. This way you’ll stay abreast of sales, promotions & new stock.
  • When you’re ready, create an account (this is free & doesn’t commit you to anything but stores your info e.g. delivery address etc. to expedite purchasing for when you are ready).

For this example, from the homepage, choose women>sale>outlet>dresses

  • For your 1st purchase I suggest trawling their sale (they call it outlet) shop (did I mention I’m frugal!?) to make yourself more comfy & minimise (the psychological) risk. There’s literally thousands of items in the sale shop. Don’t try this at your desk, you will get drawn in there for hours….

  • I like shopping by category & by price. So when I get to the sale shop, I choose “dresses” for example & I then sort by price, from lowest to highest (see top right hand corner in above picture). This brings up all dresses on sale (i.e. all 1869 of them!) from the cheapest to the most expensive.
  • If you want, you can even pre select your dress size, length & colour (see left hand panel in above picture) & Asos will only show you applicable items for your selected preferences that they have in stock.

Once you select a particular dress you’re keen on, all the info will come up like this

  • You can change the currency to ZAR’s but I just usually leave it in GBP’s (I’m so used to the mental math already!)
  • Also to save time, choose to view 200 items at a time vs. 20. Trust me…
  • Decide upfront what your limits are. For example unless it’s really special or evening wear, I’m unlikely to spend more than 30 GBP’s on a sale dress.

Shopping experience

The reason I like the shopping experience on Asos is that they have invested heavily in their site (they don’t have any actual stores, even in the UK):

  • You can see each item you are interested in from different angles, be it on a hanger or on an actual model.
  • Many items even have videos where you get to see a model walk the ramp in it.
  • There’s loads of info on each item e.g. the type of fabric used & wash care instructions. The latter is important to me – dry cleaning is really expensive!
  • If you like an item but aren’t sure, you can “save” it to have a look at it later & it will stay on your profile for up to 30 days without you having to hunt it down again.
  • They have a really wide range, over 850 brands including maternity wear, beauty & even a mens sections.
  • I like that I get regular email notifications about my order’s progress/shipping once I’ve paid so there’s not too much guessing.


Now for the not-so-good news. Import taxes are payable on all international purchases. There’s no escaping it. The problem that I’ve found is that the taxes can go up to 80% of the price I paid for the goods. Sometimes it’s been as low as 20% but there doesn’t seem to be any consistency so plan for 80% & anything less is a bonus.

X, Y & Z went wrong, help!

The customer service from Asos has been pretty good. Yes, occasionally orders do run late or even, God forbid go missing. Life happens. But all these instances have been resolved by the Asos team very efficiently & most importantly have never left me out-of-pocket.

You can reach them on a variety of methods. They respond. And quickly.

Need to know

  • In terms of international sites, I have also used Dorothy Perkins & I’d say that in essence, the same principles apply.
  • The great thing about shopping on international sites (especially US & UK based) is that they are a season ahead of us in terms of fashion & weather. So for example right now, they are going into winter & are selling out summer stuff (that SA would normally only see next year) on sale!

I can’t but end without warning you that online shopping is totally addictive. I remember the high that I used to get when I would get to my desk & see a parcel waiting for me, it’s indescribable.  So set a budget & stick to it!

You can check out some of my favourite Asos purchases (it was really hard to narrow these down!)

If you’d prefer to try some local sites, watch this space for a follow-up post where I’ll be doing a round-up of these to get you well on your way & spending soon 🙂

Happy shopping!


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  1. Yandisa

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