A shift in the market

Something unnoticed has been happening in search, right under the noses of CMOs and Digital Marketing Managers. The market has shifted, changed, and those brands that fail to pick up on these shifts are getting left behind.

The shifts have come in the form of consumer behaviour and also through the Google algorithm. People find it hard to pick up on these changes - you need smart and scalable technology to do so.

Lockdown and the algorithm

On 23rd March 2020, the UK formally went into lockdown and the high street as we once knew it, was closed. While the general public have started to consider what this means for high street stores, this has been a narrative on the lips of SEOs for some time already. However, SEO is still a channel that most brands undervalue, and one that some don’t yet fully understand.

What makes for an even more interesting landscape is a Core Update from Google being thrown into the mix on 4th May. Rumoured to be the most significant since the Medic Update in 2018, Ayima Pulse has unsurprisingly picked up on tremors in various sectors. Volatility is rife, with Boohoo losing 5% of their market share just one day after the announcement.

Let’s focus on the impact on the fashion space for now, but be aware this has impacted every sector in the market. 

Pure play brands like Boohoo and Missguided have dominated page one of Google’s SERPs for some time, and ‘Bricks and Clicks’ businesses like H&M, New Look, and Arcadia Group have been under threat. But, will COVID-19 and an algorithmic update widen the gap even further, or open up an opportunity for bricks and mortar brands to seize the day and finally take the SEO bull by the horns?

In a time where physical stores are well and truly closed, it stands to reason that online retailers will have an advantage. What any marketer would expect is to see pure play sites like ASOS continuing to see performance improvements. And indeed that holds up; since February 2020, ASOS have enjoyed a staggering 5 million additional visits from organic search, and this uptick isn’t showing any signs of slowing.

graph showing ASOS search traffic trends

This is not only relevant to womenswear of course; if search behaviour in the fashion space is anything to go by, it is any brand that does nothing that is playing a risky game. To have a chance of performance, an always-on, yet sustainable marketing strategy is crucial.

During the lockdown, ASOS were criticised for putting their workers in danger as fulfilment warehouses and delivery operations remained open throughout. Whilst they addressed concerns and made amendments to their distribution centres, it’s fair to say that it was business as usual for the retail giant.

The same can’t be said for everyone, however. Quiz Clothing are perhaps an exception to the rule, with high street presence and success online too. However, amidst lockdown, they put a stop to online sales altogether. Choosing to prioritise the wellness of their staff is, of course, to be more than respected, yet with high street stores closed and online sales on pause, the impact was inevitable.

SEMRush estimates show that Quiz Clothing have lost nearly half a million organic visits from February to date:

graph showing Quiz Clothing search traffic trends

Ayima Competitor Landscape reports have always shown Quiz as a site with relatively high market share, yet worryingly high volatility. So has the concoction of a pause in online operations and significant organic instabilities been a lethal mix for Quiz?

graph showing Quiz Clothing market volatility

Nevertheless, Quiz have left sizeable shoes to be filled and their performance drops only present an opportunity for others. H&M for example, have been steadily climbing the ranks since January. As of January 2020, Quiz enjoyed a share of 7.51% of the UK Fashion landscape, and H&M just 2.85%. Fast forward to May 2020 and Quiz have lost 2.51% and H&M have gained 1.71%.

graph showing clothing brands traffic share

While this slight creep won’t be enough to bring their turnover to previous levels, is this the start of a rise for brands who traditionally weren’t competing in the space?

In conclusion

Closing the gap between online and offline sales is now more important than ever, and H&M’s organic market share is the highest it has been this year. For marketers, a robust and proactive strategy to tackle the new normal is key. A shift in consumer behaviour is happening right under your nose and to do nothing could be disastrous.

With high street doors closed, has the Google update opened up a new door for the retailers the internet had previously forgotten?

Ayima is about Performance SEO. We are the largest independent SEO consultancy globally and the only one to use proprietary scalable technology to make sense of the complex SEO market. 

We deliver performance uplift, control and transparency.

For more on this topic, read our article on The impact of Covid-19 on user behaviour and ecommerce.


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