When retailers dominate search engine marketing & how brands should deal with it (example Outdoor)

When retailers dominate search engine marketing & how brands should deal with it (example Outdoor)

Most customer journeys start on Google. Customers are accustomed to researching an upcoming purchase online and – in conjunction with the stationary trade – to decide on what they consider to be the best offer.

No different in the outdoor category. Organic search results are the most important desktop traffic source and account for approx. 34% of desktop traffic (both in outdoor retail and brand panels)[1]).

We have analyzed whether retailers or brands have better organic visibility in the search engines. The representation below shows first of all that the outdoor dealers are found clearly better in the search engines and thus profit with higher probability from the search inquiries:

Search engine visibility (Quelle: XOVI)

It should be clear that the assortment plays a role in a visibility analysis carried out with the usual SEO tools. Dealers usually cover more search engine-relevant topics, brands and thus key words than brands, so that the visibility above is not too much of a surprise.

It looks different when you analyze the visibility of the 25 top keywords in the outdoor category. For this purpose the 25 most searched terms were adjusted by brand or dealer names, so that only generic terms (for example rain jacket, hiking trousers etc.) were examined. The aim is to determine the visibility only for outdoor-relevant requests – independent of brand or dealer names.

Since we are so very close to the category, we have added two dealers who do not have a pure outdoor focus: Amazon and Sport Scheck.

Visibility regarding the Top 25 Outdoor Key Words

Two things stand out:

Firstly, the retailers are significantly better placed in Google’s results than the brands in terms of the top key words in the outdoor category.

Secondly, the “generalists” Amazon and Sport Scheck are also ahead of the pack when it comes to pure outdoor topics.

This means that consumer search queries are most likely to reach the two generalists, followed by the group of outdoor retailers. Only then do the brands' websites follow.

We go further: what about consumers looking directly for a brand? To analyze this, we have determined and categorized the hits for the corresponding search queries:

Distribution of results for brand name searches 

We see that 53% of hits come from dealers and “only” 29% from brands. Brands try to compensate for their poorer organic visibility with more ads (7% brands to 1% dealers).

This means that even if consumers are looking directly for an outdoor brand, they are more likely to end up at a retailer than at the brand’s website.

Consequences for brand marketing

Given the huge role of dealers in search engines, how should brands deal with the fact that it is more likely to be the dealers who benefit from search queries than their own brand?

We see two complementary paths:


  1. Make sure that your brand site meets (at least) the expectations of consumers

We assume that every brand strives to see relevant search queries on its own homepage rather than at the trade.

This presupposes that your own homepage meets or even better exceeds the expectations of consumers and that product research on the brand side can be sensibly continued in the direction of sales – through your own shops, the sharp integration of external online retailers or a clever connection to the stationary trade.

We see considerable potential here in the outdoor market. Although each of the 12 brands operates its own direct-to-consumer shop, the strategy behind it is often not clear. For example, basic conversion or user experience topics are ignored, and in individual cases the shopping experience does not meet the high standard that consumers are now accustomed to from online shopping. Here brands, derived from the strategy, should optimize the existing shops to avoid that costs incurred are not compensated by sales achieved in the shop.

  1. Make sure that your brand is optimally presented to e-commerce partners.

For most brands it becomes too costly to change the dominance of the dealers on the search engines at short notice. So you should face the facts – and work on presenting your own brand to online merchants.

The following steps are required for comprehensive e-commerce category management:

  • Check and monitor the performance of your e-commerce partners.

    Basically, it’s the same as it has been in the offline world for decades: with dealers who have no traffic, you will also sell your products more heavily than with dealers with a high frequency. Online means: check the reach of the e-commerce partners (traffic), the commitment of the traffic should also play a role, i.e. low bounce rates, high retention time etc.. Also check if the dealer is easy to find in search engines. We know from the Outdoor e-commerce panel that traffic is developing dynamically and that the traffic shares of leading retailers can change by 7 percentage points within a year.



  • Make sure that your products are optimally present.

    This includes a number of shop-specific aspects. As in classic category management, the levers are the same:
    – The assortments per category,
    – The visibility of your brand within the shop
    – The price setting of the shop (measured by the example of different shopping baskets) as well as
    – How your products are displayed on the Product Details Pages.

The basis is always that every brand should be presented “in line with the market” – this is about facts and not about gut feeling. Only with data-based reasoning will you be able to achieve your goals with your e-commerce partners; after all, a merchant also wants to know how he can improve his performance on the basis of data.

It is therefore a win-win-win argument: the retailer’s offer should be better geared to the needs of consumers, so that consumers find what they are looking for (Win #1), retailers benefit from better sales (Win #2) and the brands sold benefit from their improved performance (Win #3).

We support brands on their way to successful e-commerce category management. Data-based and objective.  

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator


[1] Marken-Panel (alphabetische Reihenfolge): Fjällräven, Haglöfs, Jack Wolfskin, Mammut, Norrona, Ortovox, Patagonia, Salewa, Salomon, Schöffel, The North Face, VauDe. Händler-Panel: Bergfreunde, Bergzeit, Campz, Doorout, Exxpozed, Globetrotter, McTrek, PM Outdoor, Sport Schuster, Süd-West, Unterwegs

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