At 4Ps we work with a lot of luxury names you won’t always find on your everyday high street – from Selfridges to Lindt to specialist brands like Mary Katrantzou or Dune London. The platforms they operate on – and how much they contribute to (or hamper) search marketing efforts varies wildly. We wanted to see what the standard – if any – was for designer brands operating in the online space when it comes to server technology, analytics and online selling.
Using the brands list at Harrods and our own in-house knowledge of the space we compiled a list of 100 fashion, beauty and homeware brands to act as a cross-market sample. We then collated data about each of their websites via observation and the use of builtwith.com, including their server technology, analytics platforms, eCommerce status, mobile site provision (if any) and whether or not they were internationally marketing.
To qualify as international, a site had to provide content in another language or have separate, localised versions of the site running for e.g. the UK and US markets. Just having a single language on a .com or only providing international currency and shipping options was not sufficient. To quality as an eCommerce site the brand had to sell products directly to consumers on their main website or a subdomain thereof.
The vast majority of brands made use of Apache. While conducting this research it was suggested that we do a comparable study on professional services and financial brands to see if there was a mirrored bias towards IIS in the B2B sector, as some labs team members theorised.
The majority of designer brands are still not marketing themselves internationally when it comes to their online presence. The majority is not overwhelming, however!
The rise of eCommerce has led to a growth in direct sales for designers who are no longer dependent on large retailers to distribute their products – an interesting market shift from a few years ago when designers were reliant on resellers.
The vast majority of sites use Google Analytics. Coremetrics and Omniture are also used by a notable proportion, although there were more brands that used no analytics at all than those which made use of other platforms such as WebTrends or Piwik. Please note that many sites made use of more than one analytics software which skews results slightly.
Most sites use Google Analytics alone although some made use of Omniture in isolation. A notable proportion made use of multiple analytics platforms and a few used tools other than GA in isolation. Interestingly Coremetrics, the second most used analytics platform overall, was never used without supplementary tools in this sample.
This sample shows that the majority of designer brands are still not taking advantage of a mobile-ready web presence and have not considered a multi-device approach – not good news for the recent mobile UX update. Those which have are generally going down either the responsive or separate URLs routes, although a few are using select serve to display mobile optimised content and CSS on identical URLs.
As expected, sites which have invested in the ability to sell online are more likely to invest in some form of mobile site provision than those which only have showcase or brochure-style sites. Non eCommerce sites which have mobile provision are more likely to use responsive than other methods, while eCommerce sites are more evenly spread between the three mobile serving techniques.
Of the server technologies in the sample, sites on IIS displayed the lowest proportion of mobile adoption regardless of technique, and Apache the highest. Interestingly the majority of nginx based sites which made use of mobile chose to be fully responsive rather than utilise selective serving or separate mobile URLs.
Apache seems to be the preferred server technology for multinational websites, again likely due to the variety of open source CMS solutions available on it, although interestingly websites served on IIS display a very even proportion of multinational vs non multinational targeting.
This may be less to do with the content management systems on offer and more related to the potential use of IIS by more established or high turnover business (who are concerned with secure integration with other web services, a common reason to choose IIS technology) who are more likely to be at a stage of growth where international expansion is a serious consideration.
When working with luxury brands across all sectors, 4Ps sees a very wide range of CMS capabilities. Some businesses invest very heavily in their content management in house or with a development agency and work really hard to make the most of it, while some see it as a necessary evil and tend to spend time wrestling with it as an overhead. Search marketers can often end up playing a tug of war between clients and developers, particularly where proprietary systems are involved, which is often less productive for everyone involved.
By working closely with our clients and aiming to become more like an extended arm of their internal business than another third party agency, we aim to integrate more closely with developers and remove the often antagonistic aspect of this interfacing. Many technical search marketers are 4Ps have a technical or web development background, allowing for an easier dialogue when it comes to code amends, analytics implementation and general strategy, which tends to benefit all three parties.