Digital divas and digital dunces: L2’s Index is out and it might surprise you

Beyonce Ivy Park 1

Ivy Park by Beyoncé

L2 is back and just waiting to tell fashion businesses how badly they’re doing at digital. Quite right too. Anyway, at least this time the performance tracker isn’t blasting the luxury sector, it’s mass-to-premium retail that’s under the spotlight.

So how are the assorted ranks of footwear, beauty, homewares and fashion brands doing? Well, actually L2 isn’t just criticising, it’s praising too.

Step forward Topshop to take the winner’s crown with a Genius rating. Why? Topshop “prioritises content,” which is evident in the multiple content hubs housed under its main domain like the Topshop Blog and Magazine. UGC collected under the hashtag #topshopstyle is both shoppable and sortable by clothing category. And it achieved over 67m impressions during a six-month period from desktop advertising strategies alone, drawing site traffic with creatives dedicated to athleisure sub-brands via its Beyoncé Ivy Park and its Kendall and Kylie Jenner collaboration.

This is how it works. Its Digital IQ Index methodology evaluates brands’ performance across the consumer journey (website and e-commerce, digital marketing, social media, and mobile) and classifies each brand as Genius, Gifted, Average, Challenged, or Feeble. The report also provides data-driven analysis and insights into digital trends and best practices among UK speciality retailers.

So who else is in the top 10? Next, under L2’s Gifted heading, come Asos, Schuh, New Look, H&M, River Island, Next, Victoria’s Secret, Mango and Zara. What, no M&S? Sorry, that was uncalled for.


Asos SS16

Asos gets a top spot because it has extensive page tagging which has a long-term payoff, with the brand appearing on the most keywords in the L2 Index. Its participation in third-party parcel services allows the brand to provide click-and-collect services without operating any stores.

Schuh has robust omnichannel capabilities integrated on product pages including timing estimates for buy or reserve online and pick up in-store options. And pioneering video chat rounds out the customer service offerings.

At New Look, barcodes in email marketing for in-store redemption create a seamless link to physical stores while a scheduled delivery option makes the site experience “tangentially superior,” and mobile advertising is supported by a clear call to actions.

L2 also has praise for H&M, which dominates on Instagram; for River Island’s ongoing Snapchat campaign that uses specific geofilters to draw social media users to the store; and for Next that has “best in class” cross-selling on product pages plus dominance in SEO/SEM across branded and category keywords.

Victoria’s Secret’s social media strength and daily on-site promotions get special mentions too, as do Mango’s omnichannel strength and Zara’s investment that is boosting Facebook engagement plus its Apple Pay integration in its mobile app.

Must do better

Interesting that the entire top 10 with Genius/Gifted status is fashion-focused. But who was at the bottom in the Feeble category? BHS was last but we can probably forgive it as it’s only been up and running for a very short time. Calzedonia scraped in just above it and Aesop rounded off the bottom three.

Some other big names slumbered in the Challenged list too. From the bottom up, they included Russell & Bromley, The Kooples, Wolford, Hackett, Cos, Primark (suffering because it doesn’t do e-commerce, despite its strong social media efforts and Instagram engagement six times the average) and Barbour.

So what causes some of those big-name brands to lag? L2 said Russell & Bromley has two Instagram accounts that bifurcate its following, contributing to dismal performance across social platforms. And the brand’s abstinence from mobile advertising and limited investment in mobile search further hurts visibility.

Primark: Not into e-tail but big on engaging customers via social media

Primark: Not into e-tail but big on engaging customers via social media

The Kooples meanwhile has static customer service limited to a web form. Visibility and traffic are hurt by a lack of investment in web advertising and an average performance across social media platforms.

Whistles, a bit further up at number 74 but still challenged, lacks a competitive edge in SEO performance on apparel, outerwear, and clothing terms by refraining from paid search strategies.

Special mentions?

L2 had some good things to say about some other big names outside the top 10. “UK-born brands JD Sports and River Island have performed in parallel with global heavy-hitters H&M and MAC Cosmetics, thanks to strong mobile advertising investments and competitive organic search performances,” Simon Birkenhead, European MD at L2, said.

But when it comes down to it, it’s fast fashion that’s leading the way. Birkenhead added: “Local retailers in search of a model for improving their digital strategies should look to fast fashion. This retail category has adapted well to the digital world by creating flexible multichannel shopping experiences that employ competitive fulfilment options, while also maintaining highly popular social media accounts.”

What they do right… and wrong

Over half of Index brands have adopted content integration tactics on brand sites by offering video (58%), style guides or lookbooks (54%), and blog and editorial content (53%).

Which is all very well but what happens after that? The degree to which brands connect their content to a purchase channel varies. Although more than half of brands have invested in video content on their sites, only 13% provide a link to a product page, and only 3% have attached a quick-shop feature to their videos. Eek.

The next wave of product page feature innovation is trending toward crowd-sourced content like sortable, detailed ratings and reviews, and user generated content: 46% of Index brands include either ratings or reviews on their product pages.

Despite changes to Instagram’s algorithm, brands continue to find enhanced engagement on the platform. It accounts for the lion’s share of social interactions, responsible for 96% of the total combined 277m interactions across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (in Q3 of 2016).

Are retailers at the cutting edge of payment options? Hmmmm. Although various quick-pay options have been introduced (like Visa checkout, Amazon Payments, MasterPass, Android Pay, and Apple Pay), Paypal remains the only expedited payment method available on mobile with double-digit adoption (80%, which means 20% don’t even offer Paypal).



Fast Fashion has been quicker than other retail categories to embrace the digital world, appealing to lost customers by combining their rapid inventory cycles with omnichannel capabilities like live in-store inventory, in-store returns, and click and collect.

Online pure play Asos maintains long-term customer loyalty by providing the most flexible fulfilment options (free shipping on all orders over £20 and precise next day shipping for £5.95), prioritising customer acquisition over profit margins (37% of its total orders were returned in 2015).

Other brands are focusing on augmenting their stores with additional touch points through third-party collection services like Collect+ and Hermes Parcel Shop, placing them in more direct competition with Amazon, which snapped up 25% of the UK’s internet retail market share and over 45% of the online pureplay market.

Mobile matters

Sales growth is shrinking despite nation-wide increases in median household incomes and spending power. However, brands can combat consumer apathy by providing effortless shoppability on mobile. In early 2015, mobile search volume surpassed desktop search, and this year, m-commerce is on track to account for 6% of total retail sales.

asos 2016

Picture courtesy Asos

L2 said mobile search has created a more competitive marketplace where pricing transparency is key, while Google’s suite of advertising products enforces a cut-throat mobile ecosystem in which retail rivals are now present in-store, on the go, and at home. “Brands wavering in their mobile commitment will lose out in the current retail landscape if they fail to adapt to consumers’ growing trust in, and adoption of, mobile commerce, mobile wallet technology, and contactless payment methods.”

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