Uncovering the Online Marketing Strategy of 3 Major Industries – Part 2

Last week I started a 3 piece series of articles that is supposed to confirm or deny the theory about different industries having different online marketing strategies. The first piece in the series was for the Insurance industry and included an analysis of one of the major competitors in this industry – USAA.com. This week I’ll be researching the Online Clothing Retail Industry.

The tool I’m using for this research is the fairly new Industry tab that you can find on the SimilarWeb PRO platform. As in my previous post, I’ll be focusing on traffic from the USA, in order to minimize the influencing factors.

The Online clothing retail industry

Online Clothing Retail is a massive industry; and when it comes to clothing there is an endless amount of online shops that are either an aggregator of several brands, a category under an online shopping website, the online shop of an offline retailer, a designer’s website, an affiliate site, and several other online clothing retail variants. Let’s get a close look on the web analysis of this industry and compare it with the analysis of the insurance industry:

General Industry Estimated Statistics for December (based on 9,201 sites):

  1. Total monthly US visitors – 537,500,000
  2. Average time on site – a little over 3 minutes
  3. Average pages views – 5.27
  4. Average bounce rate – 42%

Main Traffic sources:

–          Search (paid and organic) – 37%

–          Direct – 33%

–          Referrals – 21%

–          Social – 6.46%

–          Mail – 1.74%

–          Display Ads – 0.8%


Traffic Sources of the online clothing industry – SimilarWeb PRO

Search Traffic insights:

Similar to the Insurance Industry, it seems that the online clothing retail industry is mostly based on Organic search traffic, however, not as distinctively. While the organic search traffic share of the insurance industry was around 90%, the online clothing retail industry is around 80%, leaving the rest to paid search traffic. Basically this means that online retailers are giving search ads twice the attention as insurance websites do.

The top keywords for this industry demonstrates the uniqueness of this industry in that the top keywords are predominately fashion brands and labels. The top terms are names of: big clothing retail aggregators, such as Zappos, terms for known clothing labels, such as Victoria Secret and American Eagle, and of course terms of big offline retailers, such as Nordstrom, Forever 21 and H&M. The search results, in Google, for these keywords are mainly with the Brands’ websites, plus their network sites, their social pages and published news articles.

It’s clear that each of these brands is dominating the results for its brand name terms.  However, if you try to search for brand names with long tail variations, such as: “American eagle man bag”, you get a lot less search competition and some affiliate sites. This is true for both organic and paid traffic.


Search Terms in the online clothing industry – SimilarWeb PRO

Another interesting finding, which I didn’t find in the insurance industry, is the search traffic share by images: For the online clothing retail industry it stands on over 3%, while for the insurance industry it was 0.29%. It actually makes sense that when shopping for clothes you’ll be more inclined to click on images as opposed to other industries.


Search traffic by channel for the online clothing industry – SimilarWeb PRO

Referring Traffic Insights:

Trying to learn about marketing strategies from referring traffic in the clothing retail industry is a bit of a challenge. There are the clothing aggregators of all sizes (Asos, Nordstrom), general shopping sites with a Clothing category (eBay, Amazon), affiliates and bloggers of all sizes and, of course, the labels themselves plus their network sites. As you can see, it’s not easy finding specific patterns in all this mess. So, to find some juicy insights, I had to dig deeper.

I started by exporting the Referrals list to CSV and organizing the data in the pivot table. This gave me a list of the top categories by number of referring domains and by traffic share. Here are a few surprising findings:

–          Coupons sites seems to bring a lot of the traffic, but only from a few domains.

–          The ‘Adult’ category is at the 5th position – if you read my post about porn being a possible arbitrage, you’d understand how this category can become a big and valuable traffic source for clothing websites.

–          News and media is at the 10th position – It seems that there’s a lot of PR work done in this industry. This is true both as far as traffic share and the number of referring domains.

–          Sports – sports is generally an industry with a lot of ecommerce opportunities for many different categories: from food supplements to accessories and clothing. So it’s not surprising to find it in the list of top referring categories for online clothing retailers.

–          Affiliation seems to be one of the main marketing strategies, with affiliate programs such as ‘Shareasale.com’, super affiliates like ‘Wanelo.com’ and many small affiliate sites.

Audience Interests Insights from Top Search Keywords:

The search marketing strategy of online clothing retailers is as creative as the work of their fashion designers. Their target audiences are segmented by demographics, seasons, uses, sizes, price range and the list goes on. Of course, they also integrate different segments together. For instance you can find keywords like ‘winter clothing for plus size women’, ‘cheap women clothing’, ‘dresses under $100’, ‘mother of the bride dresses’, ‘light weight male underwear’ and so on. As you can see, the possible variations of keywords in the clothing industry is just about endless. If you’re creative enough and keep up with the latest trends, you can get a lot of organic and paid traffic with very little competition.

Social Traffic:

The top social networks which are sending traffic to sites from this industry are:

  1. Reddit
  2. Facebook
  3. Pinterest
  4. Twitter
  5. Youtube
  6. Stumbleupon

Frankly, the social traffic distribution surprised me a little. I was sure I’ll find Pinterest and Youtube in the first positions. The whole visual concept of Pinterest is much more clothing oriented than Reddit’s link sharing platform. In Youtube you can take advantage of great segmentation opportunities such as targeting users that are watching fashion shows or accessories video blogs. However, these two came only 3rd an 5th, after Reddit and Facebook.


We’ve got most of the insights for this industry by researching it as a whole. Let’s learn more by researching one of this industry’s leader – Nordstrom. Nordstrom is a major US based offline clothing retailer, founded in 1901, traded in the stock market and launched its online shop around 2006.

Nordstrom.com Analytics:

Search Traffic:

Nordstrom’s main traffic source is ‘Search’, with 34% traffic share. The organic traffic is mostly from branded keywords, but the paid traffic, which takes about 14% of the search traffic share, varies between different clothing items, types of accessories and small labels owned by Nordstrom. It’s very clear that Nordstrom had taken advantage of their offline success and used their name for promoting their online shop.

An interesting insight I found came from one of their old search ads – Nordstrom run a PPC campaign offering a chance to win a $500 gift card if you write a review about them. Not sure if they did this for brand awareness, lead generation or actual for conversions, since the landing page of this ad is no longer active. However, it does reveal a specific marketing technique used by this retail giant.


Nordstrom.com search ads – SimilarWeb PRO

Interesting Insights Found in Referrals Data:

‘Referrals’ is the third traffic source to Nordstrom, with around 27% (right after direct traffic). The types of sites found here are about the same as I found while researching the online clothing retail industry: aggregators, affiliates and coupon sites. However, I did find something new and interesting which shows nice potential – Dealply.com. Dealply is an addon you install on your browser which gives you deals for shopping sales online. This is an amazing traffic source for any online retailer and should definitely be included in their online marketing strategy.


Social Traffic analysis:

Nordstrom’s social traffic analysis in interesting – they have different ranks for their traffic sources and their social interactions. For instance – while Reddit brings them most of their social traffic, it’s not even in the top 6 list of social interactions – which means people are not communicating about the brand on the social platform itself, but mostly clicking on links. Same goes for Pinterest and Youtube. Facebook seems to be great for both traffic and user engagement. Twitter and G+ create a lot of internal buzz, but don’t seem to generate much traffic for Nordstrom.


Social Network Traffic to Nordstrom.com – SimilarWeb PRO

Ad Networks:

If you’ve read the first piece in this series of articles you’ll probably remember that the insurance industry was mostly relying on Google Display Network. This is not the case for the Nordstrom which has Superfish as their main ad network, with around 53% of the aisplay ads traffic share. Superfish is an image search engine which also has a browser add-on that displays personalized ads according to visited sites. For instance, you might see Superfish ads when visiting Amazon.

GDN comes right after that with around 14% and right after that, with about the same traffic share, you’ll find: Advertising.com and PriceGong.com. PriceGong is another browser add-on for shopping deals (Similar to Dealply I’ve mentioned above), and Advertising.com is a cross platform ad network which is a division of AOL network. All in all it seems display advertising is a big traffic source for Nordstrom, with: over 1,000 ad domains (coompared to USAA which had around 300), a big diversity in types of ad networks and a use of special advertising technologies that didn’t exist in the insurance industry.


Ad Networks sending traffic to Nordstrom.com – SimilarWeb PRO

So What Did We Learn about the Online Clothing Retail Industry?

–          Branded keywords is the majority of their search traffic

–          There are unique keywords possibilities and opportunities especially if you’re creative and up to date with recent fashion trends

–          Their marketing strategy is mostly based on:

  1. Branding
  2. Coupons and deals websites
  3. Affiliates
  4. Ad networks
  5. Special browser Add-ons that show text and image ads to users while visiting other related sites.

This summarizes part 2 of our 3 parts Industry analysis series. Next week we’ll run a marketing research and analysis on ‘Travel -> Accommodations and Hotels’ and uncover its main marketing strategies.

If you want to get information about how to use SimilarWeb PRO for industry analysis and competitors intelligence, leave us your details and we’ll setup 1 on 1 tutorial with one of our SimilarWeb PRO consultants. For a limited time, these training sessions are offered free of charge to both new and existing users.

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About the Author -

Natalie Halimi is the Head of Marketing Communications & Education at SimilarWeb. With over 10 years of experience in marketing, Natalie has promoted services and products in the B2C and B2B arenas, in various industries.

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