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Report: Traditional bricks and mortar department stores winning the race for online dominance in the womenswear market

By The Drum Team | Editorial



online article

June 27, 2012 | 5 min read

The Drum takes a look at the findings of some recent research from digital marketing agency Stickyeyes, which has revealed that department stores including House of Fraser and Debenhams are dominating search marketing and social media.

The research, which was conducted between October 2011 and March 2012, assessed 50 retailers across the top 100 online clothing retail keywords to identify the market leaders and their SEO, PPC and social strategies for achieving market share.It was found that House of Fraser and Debenhams are dominating an extraordinarily diverse set of players in the market due to a strong offline brand presence and diverse product portfolio as well as increased investment in e-commerce. In comparison with ‘pure-player’ retailers such as ASOS, department store retailers such as Marks and Spencer and John Lewis have lower volumes in social media yet still achieve highly effective engagement levels with their consumers. Key findingsDepartment stores and multi- channel retailers dominate search marketing and social mediaSearch remains at the forefront of retailers’ online mix and continues to be the staple diet of acquisition. Success in this market is centred on building a blended strategy across all keyword categories including brand, generic fashion, product and gender. This explains why department stores and multi-channel retailers who have a diverse product portfolio are dominating the research findings.

Social volume score index

Social engagement score index

As the above graphs indicate, ASOS tops the index for both social volume and engagement.Brand volume comprises over half of all search volumes and plays a significant role in last click conversionFifty-four per cent of all brand volume comes from just six retailers, with Marks & Spencer having the largest share. The other players include John Lewis, Next, New Look, Debenhams and ASOS. However, 46 per cent of the search market is non-brand related and a strong presence within this area allows smaller and niche retailers to compete directly with larger brands in their respective keyword markets.

Brand related impression volume

No single operator dominates all the top womenswear generic phrasesWith space so tight in these keyword markets no-one single operator dominates all the top womenswear generic phrases. For this reason, competition between Boohoo, ASOS, Lipsy, Dorothy Perkins and Missguided remains intense.

Organic click share index

Overall click share of generic women’s clothing and fashion terms is closely contested between Boohoo (14.31 per cent click share) and ASOS (13.82 per cent) whilst Amazon and eBay compete head-to-head with the top fashion brands for a large number of longtail phrases such as leggings, accessories and knitwear.ASOS is the only retailer which features in the top 10 for all markets analysedASOS is the only retailer who has the broadest keyword coverage in all primary keyword product markets and is especially prominent in the skirts sub-vertical with wholesale dominance of the rankings (20.91 per cent click share) as well as the knitwear category (16.44 per cent organic click share). So, what will shape retail strategies in the coming months?
  • A new breed of online retailerWith the rise of multi-channel retail, online shopping is now becoming central to the whole cus-tomer experience. Increased research capability allows customers to pinpoint product and expected price. Consumers can oscillate with ease between online and offline channels to make price driven decisions creating a rich multi-channel customer journey rather than independent offline and online silos.
  • Successful social media is about building brand advocacyFor many retailers, social media remains a fledging channel of customer acquisition. However, those retailers who have embraced social media are moving beyond the traditional media platforms of Facebook and Twitter and are engaging their customer in “style conversations”. Brand advocacy allows retailers to improve the buying experience by build¬ing a visual and interactive dialogue with their customers. The savvy retailers are not only looking for customers who will buy their products but who will also champion their brands by sharing their thoughts, feelings and impressions with their peer group.
  • Holistic solutions delivering real resultsSearch remains at the forefront of retailers’ online mix and continues to be the staple diet of ac-quisition. As more and more high street brands develop a multi-channel strategy, competition for keywords can only increase. The real winners are those retailers who are fusing together their search and social media strategies.
  • Retailers need to sell on multiple platformsRetailers selling their products across multiple platforms and devices is the final part of the mix. Mobile technology is forcing retailers to push the boundaries of customer engagement. With mobile now accounting for over 10 per cent of all searches, retailers will need to make it easier for consumers to purchase on mobile applications which is set to reinforce the multi-channel approach as consumers “shop on the move”, source: Clothing Retailing - UK - October 2011: Mintel).
If you would like a free copy of the report, have any questions or would like more details on your own rankings please email

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