For a sector that was under assault in 2018, a brand’s ability to effectively invest to advance their digital strategies is of utmost importance. Specialty retail brands that came out on top in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail US responded to the pressures by shifting spend towards omnichannel and fulfillment features and better site functionality on both desktop and mobile.

1. Sephora
Digital IQ: 141

Sephora is the sole Genius brand this year, owning the top-performing loyalty program, Beauty Insiders. The brand added select membership benefits by tier including the ability to share earned complimentary makeovers with a friend. Sephora also boasts the second-highest traffic in the Index, heavily investing in Google Showcase ads where it integrated store ratings and average delivery window into the mobile ad format. Heralded as the strongest video content creator on IGTV and YouTube, Sephora’s videos are educational, engaging and tailored in style and length to each social platform. 

2. Ulta
Digital IQ: 135

Ulta received second place this year due in part to its strategic omnichannel and fulfillment investments including the addition of BOPIS and next-day shipping. The brand continued to strengthen its social presence, resulting in strong referral traffic from YouTube tutorials and a highly engaged Instagram community that grew by 28% through beauty influencer partnerships. Ulta also improved its mobile site by featuring product suggestions in keyword search results and seamless in-store inventory on mobile product pages.

3. Abercrombie & Fitch
Digital IQ: 129

Abercrombie and Fitch climbed to third place this year, utilizing sophisticated omnichannel features throughout its site: filter-by-store on category pages, in-store inventory on product pages and pick up in-store at cart and checkout. The brand exhibits a strong digital advertising presence, with two-thirds of desktop ad impressions coming from targeted advertisements on select YouTube channels.

4. American Eagle Outfitters
Digital IQ: 129

American Eagle’s rich on-site features and impressive mobile-site experience earned it a top spot this year. In addition to robust site experiences, American Eagle continued to lead the way on mobile with an advanced mobile app that includes features like scannable product codes and Siri-syncing capabilities for order tracking. The brand’s successful body-positive campaign gave it a boost on Instagram as well, contributing to the 79% growth in average interactions per post.

5. REI
Digital IQ: 126

A new entrant to Gartner L2’s ranking, REI bags the fifth spot, boasting an incredibly sophisticated store locator that elevates in-store events and services and taps into consumer trends. Traffic to its unique Used Gear collection page increased by 400% since last year as the brand features robust tutorial content on-site which are organically optimized for longer search queries by outdoor-enthusiast consumers.

6. Victoria’s Secret
Digital IQ: 123

A robust social media presence keeps Victoria’s Secret in the top ten, using influencers and instagram strategically. The brand also proved itself to be highly invested in digital marketing, utilizing Google showcase ads to promote products.

7. Fossil
Digital IQ: 121

This brand has made significant omnichannel investments in 2019. Additionally, it is one of the top brands on YouTube, racking up to 70 million views in total this year alone. Its campaign around the new Gen 4 Explorist smartwatch gained 9000% more views than the average YouTube video as compared to its peers.

7. Michael Kors
Digital IQ: 121

Michael Kors’ strong loyalty program KORSVIP attributed to the brand making the top ten. The loyalty program is integrated throughout the online purchase process and offers both early access and experiential rewards. 

9. Levi’s
Digital IQ: 119

Levi’s jumped back into the top ten brands this year, gaining a significant amount of traction on YouTube. It boasted the highest number of views out of all tracked brands, utilizing its partnership with Justin Timberlake and the United by the Beat music campaign to boost traffic to its site. 

10. Ralph Lauren
Digital IQ: 119

Ralph Lauren redesigned its site this year, featuring a vastly improved customer service model and product page experience. The brand also uses Instagram highlights and IGTV to effectively bring attention to new products, events, and its latest corporate social responsibility initiatives. 

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