Only One Department Store Is a Digital ‘Genius,’ According to a New Study

Department stores have to be smart to compete in 2018, but only Macy’s is at the head of the class, according to a new survey from market research firm Gartner L2.

The retailer — which has been riding high this year thanks to solid first-quarter earnings and the buzzy acquisition of experiential retailer Story — earned a “genius” rating on the firm’s annual Digital IQ Index, holding on to its top spot above rival Nordstrom.

Macy’s was praised for its site performance and traffic (SimilarWeb recently named it the top U.S. apparel retailer with 55.9 million average monthly visitors), omnichannel features like in-store availability on product pages, social media engagement, mobile performance and tailored search capabilities. It also scored high in digital marketing, with products appearing organically against 45 percent of all searches and 49 percent of apparel searches.

Retailers were ranked as genius, gifted, average, challenged or feeble, and Nordstrom placed solidly in the second-highest category with the highest organic visibility on accessories keywords, “exceptional” Facebook engagement and robust features to drive customers to brick-and-mortar locations like “Reserve Online, Try in Store.” JCPenney, meanwhile, dropped from third place to sixth, ousted by UK retailers ASOS, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, all of which have made significant investments in e-commerce over the past year.

In fact, retailers from across the pond came out on top of U.S. department stores overall, as off-price retailers stateside dragged down the country’s overall score. (Macy’s Backstage performed particularly poorly, though as the company expands the concept to more than 100 stores this year, it will hopefully invest in its digital presence as well.)

One significant area of improvement across the board was interactive fit tools, with 49 percent of retailers offering this feature on product pages in 2018 versus 24 percent last year. The report highlighted DSW’s partnership with True Fit, which allows shoppers to input information about products they already own once and see their recommended size across all future searches.

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