The EU fined Google $2.7 billion this week for favoring its shopping results over those of competitors. By promoting Google Shopping, the tech giant steered users away from rival sites, according to the decision – causing their traffic to plunge, and highlighting how dramatically the search engine has transformed the way we shop.

Consumers who once researched products by combing through store racks now seek out items on Google, making search visibility a crucial competitive advantage for retailers. Brands in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Department Stores are ramping up spending on Google Shopping, and product listing ads are growing faster than text alternatives. Organic visibility on the search platform has also become increasingly important. While Nordstrom and Macy’s achieve higher visibility than their peers across most unbranded keyword categories, L2’s study reveals that they are outperformed by successful e-commerce and fast fashion brands, illustrating traditional retailers’ struggle to stay ahead in the digital age.

Visibility by category

Fast fashion brands Forever21 and Missguided score higher visibility on apparel terms than all but five Department Store brands in L2’s study, despite their considerably smaller scale. Similarly, e-commerce companies Overstock and Wayfair outpace all the department stores on home and garden terms, and for accessories-related searches, Overstock and Amazon are more visible than any retailer in the study except Nordstrom and Macy’s. As Google changes how we shop, established retailers can no longer depend on their brand names to attract consumers.

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