Whether they’re looking for a party dress to impress or simply a new pair of jeans, many consumer purchase journeys in fashion start with a search engine.
That’s why it’s important for fashion brands, retailers and etailers to be competitive in this key online field, especially when recessionary pressures make competition in the fashion sector so fierce.
So we read with interest a new piece of research from digital agency I Spy into the performance of the sector’s protagonists in both the fields of natural and paid for search.
Their methodology for their natural search analysis was to look at 72 generic fashion terms – like ‘boots’, ‘cardigan’ and ‘lingerie’ – and then to rank the top 30 websites by the number of keywords they held a top 10 position for. The results are below.
Top spot was claimed by ASOS, with a remarkable 66 ‘top 10s’, followed by Amazon and Debenhams. On the whole, the list was dominated by etailers, department stores and high street retailers, with fashion brands and luxury players notable by their absence, with the exception of Net-a-Porter at position 7.
Of course, a page 1 ranking is good, but any fashion retailer worth their salt will be aiming for a no.1 ranking – estimated to generate up to 40% for the traffic for any given SERPs page. I Spy’s report also ranked the top 30 websites by the number of no.1 rankings and ASOS triumphed once again with New Look in 2nd place.
Of course, for brands that struggle to compete in natural search, paid search offers a solution. Here, the study split the generic terms into 3 broad categories – womenswear, menswear and luxury – to see how the various players in the market performed.
For womenswear, etailer Marisota topped the list with 83% coverage of terms in the category. On the whole, etailers dominated again – perhaps a reflection of how much harder they have to work online to compensate for their lack of an offline presence – although niche brands such as Boden and Anthropologie also performed strongly.
The menswear sector was dominated by Marks & Spencer with 66% coverage, followed by Premierman and Amazon. Reiss also performed surprisingly well in this category, as did TM Lewin.
The luxury category was surprisingly led by Mainline Menswear, and unsurprisingly followed by that most digitally savvy of luxury brands, Burberry. Discount retailers such as BrandAlley and Outnet showed themselves keen to grab a slice of this market, as did young fashion etailer Very.
The main learnings from this study have been the notable absence of any significant number of fashion brands in general, and premium and luxury fashion brands in particular. In general, both natural and paid search results have been dominated by etailers, department stores and high street retailers.
Whilst clearly all fashion players have something to learn from the natural search performance of ASOS, premium and luxury brands in particular can use the argument that the study, by focusing on generic terms, biased the results against them. Surely, it makes sense for them to concentrate on nicher, longer tail terms to achieve the required return on their search investment?
This may be true but generic searches often represent the start of the purchase process. Brands that ‘opt out’ of this market may be missing a golden opportunity to place themselves in the consideration set right at the top of the purchase funnel. Hence, targeting generic terms may not deliver immediate sales, but by generating awareness at the beginning of a consumer’s purchase decision, they can be effective in making a balanced search strategy much more effective.