Traditional bricks and mortar department stores winning the race for online dominance

Department stores including House of Fraser and Debenhams are dominating search marketing and social media according to the latest research from digital marketing agency Stickyeyes.

The research shows that both brands 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.

And, despite low volume in social media when compared to pure-players retailers such as ASOS, department store retailers such as Marks and Spencer and John Lewis are achieving highly effective engagement levels with their consumers.

The research, which focused on the period 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.

Phil McGuin, Head of Insight at Stickyeyes said: “Whilst the results of our latest study may seem surprising on initial inspection, especially considering the recent financial results announced by these retailers, it does of course make sense that those brands with economies of scale are better placed in the long-term to gain a solid footprint in the market.

Although niche retailers, such as those specialising in petite and larger size fashion feature prominently in their respective markets, on the whole they are being pushed out of the top 10 by department stores, supermarkets and online marketplaces such as Amazon and ebay in what is an immensely tight and competitive but extremely lucrative market”.

Key findings

Department stores and multi- channel retailers dominate search marketing and social media

{{Search 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.

Brand volume comprises over half of all search volumes and plays a significant role in last click conversion

54% 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% 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.

No single operator dominates all the top womenswear generic phrases

With space so tight in these keyword markets no-one single operator dominates all the top womenswear generic phrases. Overall click share of generic women’s clothing and fashion terms is closely contested between Boohoo (14.31% click share) and ASOS (13.82%) 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 analysed

ASOS is the only retailer who has the broadest keyword coverage and is especially prominent in the skirts sub-vertical with wholesale dominance of the rankings (20.91% click share) as well as the knitwear category (16.44% organic click share).

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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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