Department stores face a rapidly transforming landscape. Retail sales in the sector have halved since 2002, as e-commerce increasingly cuts into brick-and-mortar shopping. However, omnichannel retailing offers a chance for department stores to outdo e-commerce giants like Amazon. Many of the high performers in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Department Stores have introduced omnichannel innovations that make shopping more convenient for consumers, suggesting that the future of historic retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom will look vastly different from their past. 1. Macy’s (Macy’s, Inc.)
Digital IQ: 142
Macy’s topped the ranking in large part due to its brand site, which received more traffic than any other Index brand. Thanks to a savvy blend of promotional tactics and web ad spend, Macys.com attracted 10% more monthly unique visitors than its closest competitor.
The site also showcases Macy’s extensive investment in omnichannel capabilities. Shoppers can limit search results to items available for immediate in-store pickup at locations near them. Additionally, Macy’s offers ship-from-store capability at all 775 locations, meaning that its brick-and-mortar stores now boast a geographic footprint 12 times larger than Amazon’s fulfillment centers.
2. JCPenney (J.C. Penney Company, Inc.)
Digital IQ: 141
JCPenney carved out a spot at the top of the Index through its extensive SEM efforts. The retailer achieved the highest paid visibility across category keywords (e.g. “dresses for women”) of any department store. In the U.S., JCPenney compensates for low organic visibility with heavy investments in search advertising, raising its paid visibility to the same level as benchmarks set organically by Nordstrom and Macy’s. Sponsored ads direct consumers to local stores and the JCPenney mobile app.
That app also stands out among department store offerings. It boasts support for ApplePay, visual search capability, and In-Store mode, which tailors both ads and coupons for the user’s local store.
3. Nordstrom (Nordstrom, Inc.)
Digital IQ: 141
Nordstrom distinguishes itself from peers by emphasizing email marketing. The retailer sends a consistent 4.5 emails per week to subscribers. These messages promote a broad array of products, linking consumers to both the online and in-store path to purchase.
The department store also boosts its social media presence with a combination of paid media spend and compelling content, making Nordstrom a leader in engagement across platforms. To date, Nordstrom has the largest Pinterest community with nearly 4.4 million followers — a crucial win for a retailer, as 87% of Pinterest users plan purchases via the platform. The retailer has even gone the extra mile of implementing “buyable” pins, which let users purchase featured items via Apple Pay.
4. Kohl’s (Kohl’s Corporation)
Digital IQ: 139
The retailer has made significant investments in its mobile app since last November, as evidenced by high ratings. One of the latest additions is beacon functionality, which sends users personalized messages based on the nearest store to them. The innovative Savings Wallet feature lets users easily save money at checkout by scanning barcodes on offers received at checkout or through the mail, then saving them in the wallet area of the app.
The Kohl’s website has a similar functionality: the unique Wishlist feature, which allows users to list products they want and set a budget ceiling. The feature demonstrates Kohl’s growing commitment to e-commerce and omnichannel initiatives amid the changing department store retail landscale.
5. Bloomingdale’s (Macy’s, Inc.)
Digital IQ: 131
Like Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s has invested significantly in social media. The brand’s Pinterest presence brings together content and commerce. For example, user-generated content can be clicked on and purchased. The retailer also uses platforms such as Facebook to promote its “Big Brown Bag” app, which lets users shop “anytime, anywhere.”
The Bloomingdale’s app has the same functionality as its mobile site, but has provided a more intuitive and user-friendly experience since receiving a major overhaul in 2014. Recent updates have focused on enhancing omnichannel capabilities, such as in-store item scanning and push notifications about nearby offers and events. The app uses free shipping to entice customers into its Loyalist program, which lets users stack up points and access redeemable offers via bWallet.
6. Neiman Marcus (Neiman Marcus Group)
Digital IQ: 130
Neiman Marcus follows an unusually aggressive email marketing strategy. The retailer sends 10-14 emails each week – four times the average set by immediate peers.
The department store has also pioneered smart mirror technology at select stores. These “Memory Mirrors” are equipped with video cameras, allowing shoppers to compare various outfits and even save them to a mobile device for later consultation or sharing on social media. Such enhancements to the in-store experience form a cornerstone of department stores’ strategy for challenging e-commerce retailers.
6. Saks Fifth Avenue (Hudson’s Bay Company)
Digital IQ: 130
Saks builds on its Luxury reputation to compete in the world of e-commerce. For example, the retailer’s website offers the same Personal Stylist functionality as brick-and-mortar stores. Customers contact a stylist to make their request. The stylist then replies with solutions and places the order. The retailer also has extensive email offers and SMS alerts, boosting the efficiency of the checkout process.
8. John Lewis (John Lewis Partnership)
Digital IQ: 128
John Lewis boasts not only high category search performance in the U.K. market, but also extraordinary YouTube popularity. The retailer’s “Monty the Penguin” Christmas ad received 23.5 million views on YouTube, more than any other Index brand.
While most Department Store channels benefited from paid views, the “Monty the Penguin” campaign earned more than 70% of those views organically. This success can be attributed to a combination of television ads and in-store experiences highlighting the new penguin mascot.
8. Net-A-Porter (Richemont)
Digital IQ: 128
Net-A-Porter proved its identity as a digital role model when it launched its “The Net-Set” app, the world’s first shoppable social network. Users can use the app to share their style inspirations with fellow consumers as well as designers and brands. Every brand sold on Net-A-Porter receives its own portal where it can engage with individual users.
The app borrows elements from existing social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram to effectively link content and commerce. Visual recognition technology lets shoppers purchase styles that they “admire” in user-generated images, while the Style Council provides shoppers with personalized style assistance. The checkout process integrates PayPal, creating a seamless transition between editorial and shoppable content.
8. ASOS (ASOS plc)
Digital IQ: 128
ASOS’ digital success comes from its SEO mastery. The British retailer significantly outperforms the index average for organic search visibility, a triumph that comes not from any complex SEO solution, but rather from basic diligence on the back end. Each product photo and cross-selling link has an appropriate Alt tag, and promotional graphics feature scannable and copyable text, allowing the pages on the brand site to be easily indexed by Google’s search crawlers.
ASOS also dominates Instagram, with both the most popular posts and largest community of any Index brand. The retailer is responsible for 95% of the top 1,000 posts in terms of interactions released by Index brands over the past year. Posting nearly 22 photos per week, the brand typically shares general content like animals and food rather than advertising specific products.
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