6 Lessons From 2021’s Top Brands to Perfect Your Digital Strategy
Research Intelligence

6 Lessons From 2021’s Top Brands to Spark Digital Success

by Emily Hunt , Market Research & eCommerce Specialist 6 Min.
February 14, 2022

After reaching a record-breaking 32% revenue growth in 2020 year-over-year (YoY), eCommerce growth slowed in 2021.  Shoppers’ return to stores, in addition to inflation, supply chain crises, and other COVID-related unpredictability, made for a tumultuous year for online brands.

To learn from those that prospered, we used Similarweb digital intelligence to put together an annual ranking of the fastest-growing brands in the U.S. Check out top takeaways to craft your digital strategy for 2022.

1. Double down on a discounted dress

Post lockdown, Americans needed to fashion up — and quickly. In fact, growth to the top ten apparel sites reached 2097% exceeding 2020 by 415%. But, to bag wins in the current economic environment, brands need to be sensitive to pocketbooks.

Inflation is up with interest to look good. December rates hit 7%, a high for 2021 and more than five percentage points higher than one year ago.

Inflation rate

Inflation rates via Statista

The rise of fast fashion – trendy, affordable clothing available to the masses — reflects consumers’ cost concerns. App downloads of Shein, which epitomizes the trend, eclipsed Amazon last year.

Following in Shein’s heels, four out of the top 10 fastest-growing apparel brands specialize in on-trend, affordable clothing, and highlight discounts on their respective websites. These tactics helped increase traffic by as much as 6,068% YoY for the number one fastest-growing fashion brand.

shopcider.com homepage

Cider’s homepage highlights discounts

Desktop and mobile visits to the winner, shopcider.com, rose 27% and 31% from October to November, reflecting strong consumer demand amidst fall inflation hikes.

Monthly visits 2021 of https://shopcider.com/

Despite inflation, monthly visits to shopcider.com grew, via Digital Research Intelligence

To suit up for success, brands can likewise:

  • Highlight discounts and savings on websites and in key messaging
  • Consider launching lower-priced lines, particularly if you’re a premium brand and want to sell in high volume

2. Prepare for the global popularity of NFTs

Opensea.io scored second place overall as the fastest-growing website in the U.S., soaring 8,492%.

The self-proclaimed “world’s first and largest” NFT (non-fungible token) marketplace allows users as young as 13 to buy and sell crypto-collectibles, including art, photographs, and trading cards.

In fact, three out of 10 fastest-growing financial services sites in the U.S incorporate NFTs, including Axie Infinity, an online video game, even though zero of such companies made the list in the U.K.

Yet, nine out of 10 winners use blockchain, its underlying technology. Signs point to change:

At the start of the year, the British Museum announced the launch of NFTs bringing deja vu of a record-breaking art sale in the U.S. less than one year ago.

In March 2021, Christie’s sold “EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS,” for $69 million, the most ever recorded for digital art. Specialists like Noah Davis, who covers post-war and contemporary art at the prestigious auction house, called the transaction “monumental” in showing the power of NFTs, while Mike Winkelmann, the real name of the artist “Beeple,” called it the “next chapter of art history.”

Less than one year later, we don’t doubt it.

At the time of the sale, traffic to OpenSea’s website started skyrocketing, propelling it to the number one fastest-growing D2C brand in Q1 2021. Its D100 performance shows its steadfastness to that strong position.

As the U.K. and U.S. continue embracing digital art, the opportunity for NFTs grows. Companies that haven’t caught up to the trend or its underlying technology may want to consider it now.

3. Deliver in-store experiences online

COVID-19 lockdowns forced many consumers to shop online for the very first time in 2020. Now, with stores reopened and Omicron on the decline, how can you keep your remaining, new customers in 2022?

Look to MicroPerfumes.

Microperfumes.com snagged first place as last year’s fastest-growing beauty brand, despite industry traffic dropping 33% from November 2020 to February 2021 as shoppers returned to stores, where they could test and try products.

Monthly visits 2020-2021 for microperfumes.com

Beauty industry traffic dips as consumers return to stores, via Digital Research Intelligence

We sniffed out the brand’s secrets to quadruple-digit growth, 5,093%, to be exact. By offering sample size scents, MicroPerfumes allows shoppers to replicate the in-store testing experience, at home. They can be sure they like a scent before paying full price for full size.

Like MicroPerfumes, brands should try to provide on-site experiences, digitally, particularly in industries where shoppers engage the senses like beauty, auto, clothing, and furniture.

Features like enhanced customer service, try-before-you-buy, virtual dressing rooms, and hybrid shopping (option to purchase online and in-store) can help bring a shop to a customer’s home.

Brands could also go all out and release a digital store complete with music and 3-D shopping, like ralphlaurenvirtualstores.com. While Ralph Lauren’s been in vogue for decades, visits to ralphlaurenvirtualstores.com grew 949% YoY, to rank among 2021’s fastest-growing apparel brands.

As you offer in-store experiences online, emphasize this in your web presence. For instance, MicroPerfumes uses “samples” in the headlines of its Google paid and organic search results.

MicroPerfume’s paid and organic results reflect sample sizes

MicroPerfume’s paid and organic results reflect sample sizes

4. Pay up when the competition’s down

Shortages and shipping delays prompted consumers to lose faith in mainstream retailers. With the global supply chain crisis only expected to worsen, let’s look at Castlery, which used the situation to its advantage in 2021.

In just its first year of business, Castlery came up as the fourth fastest-growing home furniture brand.

Unlike industry leaders Wayfair and Overstock, Castlery makes the furniture that it sells on its D2C website, meaning less reliance on manufacturers’ products for inventory and a simplified supply chain.

To capitalize on this advantage, Castlery heavily invested in marketing. In fact, 44% of traffic came through paid channels — nearly four times the 12% industry benchmark.

Markting Channels - Castlery.com

Paid search was a top channel for Castlery, via Digital Research Intelligence

Whether it’s avoiding supply chain snafus or other issues, if you have an advantage over competitors, double down on paid efforts to get your brand in front of potential customers.

5. Let consumers customize (or pretend to)

Castlery’s success also reflects high consumer demand for custom products — brands should cater to this craving across industries.

brands should cater to this craving across industries.

Castlery.com lets consumers pick wood, fabric type, and color

Shoppers can pick wood, fabric, and color swatches on castlery.com. Similarly, they can create their own custom color palettes on winning beauty websites like seintofficial.com, driving 2,513% YoY for the second top beauty brand.

Even if your products can’t be customized, you can still convey that they’re personalized to appeal to consumer desire. For instance, Typology, another winner, quizzes shoppers before recommending products based on skin type.

So, get out the tests, surveys, and contests to learn more about your audience and tailor your messaging.

6. Dig into digital intelligence

Ultimately, accessing real-time information on competitors, industry trends, and purchase behaviors will reveal actionable insights to perfect your digital strategy.

To speed up success in 2022, try Similarweb tools like Digital Research Intelligence, Digital Marketing Intelligence, and Shopper Intelligence today.

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