Department stores have long held assortment advantages over vendor brands when it comes to helping consumers find the right products. Their content merchandising and exclusive partnerships also give them an advantage over newer entrants like Amazon that lack long-term partnerships. However, as Amazon increases its line of exclusive apparel and works with influencers on its The Drop collections, department stores must further invest in content and tools to not lose any more ground, while remaining differentiated from mass-market retailers.
Since 2018, efforts to align digital content with commerce on the main department store sites are replacing siloed content found elsewhere. The low upfront costs for content found on unadorned sites—including blog.retailer.com sites—and category-specific apps have proven less meaningful than relevant content on main department store platforms. The share of department stores with branded blogs has dropped to 37%, and page views on major blog.retailer.com platforms have dropped 57% during the study period observed in Gartner L2’s report on the topic. As such, department stores turn to new strategies to convert eyes to purchases—including deprecation of branded blogs—though some still miss.
In this vein, Nordstrom now promotes its trending content page, What’s Now, at the top of The Thread, its separate blog site, which has seized posting. On What’s Now, Nordstrom brings users closer to conversion by directing users to campaign-specific category pages, an improvement since 2018. Department stores reevaluating content strategies on separate sites must model Nordstrom’s strategy of redirection. If they don’t, department stores like Debenhams—which has seen an enormous fall in traffic to blog pages since 2018—will continue losing impact around its inbound marketing efforts as they fail to redirect its site visitor remnants to meaningful content oriented around conversion.
Leading department stores have not only reassessed site components, but also mobile app assets, pulling some long-forgotten apps from the app store. Across the Google Play store, underperforming and niche apps—like emoticon and magazine apps—have been removed, with greater attention being paid to core feature development. Notably, John Lewis—which once featured tech and blog apps—has deprecated assets in favor of new VR beauty functionality on its main app, allowing customers to see how they look with different lipstick shades. Other leaders like ASOS have recently experimented with VR functionality on its app as well.
As apps grow more comprehensive and can engage department stores’ most loyal consumers, investment in high traction features that help customers understand and find products should replace niche apps that hold smaller ranges of motion.