As Amazon and online pure plays put forth increasingly innovative offerings, physical retailers are struggling to remain relevant. Most growth in the retail sector now takes place in the digital space: e-commerce sales in Q1 rose by nearly 15% year on year. As a result, brands with agile digital strategies have been able to steal market share from the legacy brands that have traditionally dominated the industry. These 10 brands are the strongest contenders in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail, backing up creative content across mobile and social with aggressive marketing investments and a strong online presence. Retailers

1. Sephora
Digital IQ: 144

The most visible brand in the beauty category for organic search, Sephora boasts a strong web advertising presence, serving impressions on high-quality sites. The Get Inspired section of its mobile app features Virtual Artist technology, allowing users to test products virtually and watch video tutorials.

2. Victoria’s Secret
Digital IQ: 129

With the highest email open rates across the Index, Victoria’s Secret proves that it can do more than stage popular fashion shows. The lingerie brand also boasts strong organic visibility for key terms on category search and offers 24/7 live customer support.

3. Ulta
Digital IQ: 127

Ultra fends off intense competition by pouring spend into AdWords, appearing consistently in branded search. Its Ultamate Rewards loyalty program is integrated throughout the site, and robust product pages feature a How to Use section and detailed pros and cons.

Share of Instagram posts

4. Urban Outfitters
Digital IQ: 126

The apparel retailer targets specific customers with highly segmented email campaigns and backs strong organic visibility with paid spend. Urban Outfitters also gets the second-highest engagement on Instagram, thanks to a combination of quality content and frequent story activity.

5. American Eagle Outfitters
Digital IQ: 123

The brand uses a Facebook Messenger chatbot to interact with customers, offering a Trend Quiz that makes shoppable product recommendations. Its sophisticated mobile app offers barcode scanning and photo search, and the Inspiration section features shoppable outfits.

5. Forever 21
Digital IQ: 123

One of the most aggressive bidders for PLAs across key women’s apparel search terms, Forever 21 also plays to win on social platforms. The brand leverages Like2Buy to create a fully shoppable Instagram feed, uses hashtags to generate UGC, and promotes its Snapchat account in its bio.

7. Hollister
Digital IQ: 121

Recognizing that its core customer demographic is young, Hollister utilizes Snapchat to connect with its most loyal followers, while also posting content to Instagram. The brand’s mobile app features easy shopping, a store locator, and built-in music streaming, encouraging downloads.

8. Michael Kors
Digital IQ: 120

One of the biggest winners in this year’s ranking, Michael Kors continues to excel across social media platforms with strategic celebrity partnerships. Destination Kors consistently delivers fresh content relating to new product releases, behind-the-scenes coverage of fashion shows, and interviews with models.

9. J. Crew
Digital IQ: 119

J. Crew ranks among the top 10 Index brands for web authority, investing defensively in AdWords for its own branded terms. That extends to mobile search, where the brand has an aggressive PLA strategy and AdWords results include store geolocation.

J. Crew

9. Old Navy
Digital IQ: 119

Old Navy’s plethora of video content on YouTube garners high views, and its impressive Facebook interactions are driven by sizeable paid spend. Copious investments in mobile advertising and an iOS app offering easy shopping and sale notifications round out the retailer’s strengths.

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