Who's winning at online retail and why

24 November 2017

It’s beginning to seem a lot like Christmas, the time of year when retailers, both online and in the real world, will be working flat out to entice customers through their doors.

Hopefully, your own Christmas preparations are well in hand and if you’re already thinking ahead to your New Year’s resolutions, then we suggest that you start by reading some new research by Pi Datametrics, which highlights the connection between strong performance in search engine results and strong performance in the real world.

Market leaders lead the search results

Pi Datametrics looked at both the overall fashion landscape and selected womenswear categories and made two key discoveries. The first was that the same handful of brands was dominating both areas and the second was that the brands that were performing best in the search results were also performing best in the real world.

Brands such as ASOS, Boohoo/Pretty Little Things and Missguided all saw significant revenue growth over the last year.

Online-only retailers dominate but don’t monopolise

Arguably, the new breed of online-only retailers is at something of an advantage over their longer-established counterparts in that they have been designed from the ground up with the internet in mind and hence are well-placed to make the most of everything it can do.

Established retailers can, however, take heart from the example of Debenhams, which brought in “digital expertise” in the shape of former Amazon executive Sergio Butcher and has been successfully working to develop its online business, while still maintaining its overall image as a classic retailer.

Obviously, smaller businesses are unlikely to be able to attract and pay such major names, but there are plenty of talented individuals with more affordable rates, who can give SMEs guidance as to how to improve their search engine optimisation strategy.

Effective use of data is crucial to success

The companies that top the search rankings don’t achieve their high placements just by luck. They pay careful attention to the data they gather and use it to build an effective advertising and marketing strategy.

For example, data analytics show what type of adverts are best shown to whom, when and how. This allows companies to make the best possible use of their advertising budget, which is important in any niche but particularly important when high-value keywords are involved and even more so at peak times when competition is at its highest.

Data also informs content marketing strategies and hence partnerships with external content providers and influencers. Again, this is all about delivering maximum value for minimal budget.

Finally, data can be used to improve the overall experience of using a site and the importance of this should never be underestimated since it is measured by Google and used to inform its search rankings.

While the term “data analytics” may conjure up unpleasant images of incomprehensible spreadsheets and graphs, the truth is that if you have what it takes to run an SME, you have what it takes to understand key digital metrics and how to use them to push your business forward in an increasingly digital world.