GymShark’s and Huel’s Secret Weapon for Winning the Competition
eCommerce Intelligence

GymShark’s and Huel’s Secret Weapon for Winning the Competition

by Daniel Schneider , Content Marketing Team Lead 4 Min.
December 9, 2019 | Updated July 4, 2022

In recent years, health and wellness brands in the UK have made big digital leaps. GymShark, a fitness fashion company started by a 19-year-old entrepreneur out of his parent’s garage, has driven more traffic to its website in the 2018-2019 timeframe than global brands like Puma and Reebok combined.

Meanwhile, Huel, a vegan meal replacement drink founded by fitness guru Julian Hearn, has sold over 50 million meals in more than 80 countries, and now leads the global market for vegan meal replacement shakes – beating its California-based competitor, Soylent.

How have these 2 startups taken down some of the premier brands in their categories? The answer lies in solid marketing strategies that use organic (SEO) and paid search (PPC) to deliver an increased flow of traffic.

  • GymShark’s traffic share increased by 200% in 2 years and it is now the third-largest sports apparel brand in the UK.
  • The apparel brand dominates organic search with half of its traffic coming from UK-related fitness keywords.
  • Huel.com’s global traffic has sky-rocketed from 47K unique visitors in October 2016 to 213K in October 2019 (representing an increase of 352% in 3 years) and it is now the market leader for vegan meal replacement drinks.
  • In 2019, 3 out of 4 searches in the UK containing the term ‘Soylent UK,’ went to Huel. This is due to Huel’s aggressive PPC campaign aimed at redirecting Soylent’s traffic to its own site.

Sporting the No. 3 Spot

In 2017, gymshark.com held just 2% of the United Kingdom’s overall online traffic to the fashion industry market. Since then, its traffic has grown by over 200%, overtaking Reebok (UK), Under Armour (UK), and Puma to become the third-largest online fitness brand in Britain. It should be kept in mind, though, that, unlike its competitors who also have physical stores, GymShark is an online-only brand.

Strong Organic Growth

GymShark’s quick climb up the ropes in the apparel space is by and large thanks to a targeted SEO strategy. By honing in on terms used predominantly in the UK (versus terms used by global fitness brands appealing primarily to American consumers), GymShark has become a top searched for company and one of the fastest-growing clothing brands in the UK.

Organic search grew by 52% YoY and is responsible for the majority of GymShark’s overall traffic. In addition, traffic to gymshark.com in the UK from organic search and social media referrals was twice that of any major competitor. This may be related to its popularity among gen Z-ers who – according to recent research – prefer social media over other marketing channels. Other significant YoY increases include traffic from referrals (76%), social (71%) and paid search (50%).

Search & Win

Specific cultural search terms are at the heart of Gymshark’s rapid search growth. The brand’s SEO efforts seem to be centered on phrases that suit the UK’s apparel market such as ‘gym wear UK’, ‘gym bottoms’ and ‘sports top’. This is in line with what the industry’s global leaders, nike.com and adidas.com are doing, yet they seem to be more focused on US workout terms such as ‘workout gear’ and ‘clothes for workout’.

Gymshark.com has been able to appear higher in UK search results than its 4 main competitors. Between November 2018 to October 2019, it received more than half of the organic and paid traffic for the competitive set in terms of non-branded searches containing ‘workout’ (61.57%) or ‘Gym’ (55.83%). Gymshark.com also received 36.93% of organic traffic for searches containing ‘Legging’ and 13.71% for ‘Sport’. However, there still seems to be a lot of untapped potential here. Looking at the range of keywords to gymshark.com and competitors in the UK, there are 1,417 highly relevant keywords that Gymshark is not yet using. For example, ‘gym bag’ and ‘workout clothes’.

Snatching the Lead(s)

UK’s Huel and America’s Soylent are two of the leading meal replacement drinks on the market. Though both companies started at roughly the same time (Soylent in 2013 and Huel in 2014), Soylent initially dominated online traffic related to meal replacement products. However, by focusing on paid search Huel has managed to overtake – and maintain – the global lead in online traffic over its competitor.

In October 2016, soylent.com attracted 465K global monthly visits. Within 3 years, traffic has rapidly dropped to 137K in October 2019. Meanwhile, huel.com’s traffic is steadily rising. In September 2018 Huel surpassed Soylent for the first time, peaking in January 2018 with 397K visits (254K of which were unique visitors).

Drinking Traffic Away

Huel.com’s deliberate targeting of its competitor’s audiences has been instrumental in its growth: 5.9% of organic and 92.3% of paid keywords containing ‘Soylent’ went to huel.com in the time frame of November 2017 to October 2019. This is the result of a skillful Pay-Per-Click (PPC) strategy which Huel is using to direct traffic away from Soylent, as seen in its internal forum and dedicated on-site pages (such as Comparison to Soylent).

Conclusion

To be competitive, you need to understand your competitive landscape. GymShark and Huel are examples of newcomer brands that are utilizing effective SEO and PPC research to win their markets: GymShark is succeeding by tailoring keywords to its target audience and Huel by leveraging its main competitor’s brand awareness.

* This post is based on a market analysis report prepared by Similarweb’s Tomas Seliokas.

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