Study: Shoes Trample Fashion in Online Searches

The search is on for footwear, according to U.K.-based information-technology firm SimilarWeb. The company recently conducted a study of five retailers that sell multiple product categories and found that shoe-related searches are the biggest driver of traffic to their websites.

After analyzing the online search strategy used by Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Zappos.com, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, SimilarWeb found that from Q4 2014 to Q3 2015, footwear terms made up half of the organic searches leading to the sites and represented 55 percent of retailers’ paid-search campaigns.

For their paid-search outreach, the five retailers relied primarily on specific brand names, particularly during the holiday season, when shoppers are looking for specific gifts. Among the top 10 paid-search terms during Q4 2014 were Michael Kors, Hunter Boots, Kate Spade, Ugg Boots, Tory Burch and Frye Boots.

Consumers were more general in their organic searches, hunting for generic items like “shoes,” “winter boots” and “wide calf boots.”

SimilarWeb’s team pointed out that retailers rely on brand names in their paid searches to attract consumers to more expensive, higher-margin products. “Department stores are choosing to concentrate their online ad spending on those brands, thereby increasing traffic from buyers searching for these items,” said Hilla Meller, digital insights manager at SimilarWeb.

Meller added, “Continuing to track the footwear zeitgeist and knowing which brands are most popular in a particular season can be extremely valuable for department stores as they continue to plan and execute their online marketing strategies.”

Zappos, in particular, has a seen a big benefit from the dominance of footwear searches. SimilarWeb reported that the e-tailer, which started out selling only shoes, receives 26 percent more traffic from online searches than Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Saks.

Overall, the importance of search optimization is growing. From Q4 2014 to Q3 2015, traffic generated by online searches to the five retailers rose by an average of 2.7 percent.

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