Retailers closing physical stores see online traffic decline

Macy's
Macy’s traffic dipped 11% as the retailer closed physical stores.

The first half of 2017 has seen many traditional physical stores shut their doors. SimilarWeb has collected data on how these closures have affected the online presence of these same brands. 

Comparing online traffic in the first quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017, retailers Payless, Sears, Macy’s, JCPenney and Aldo Shoes reported a decline in traffic. Macy’s traffic dipped 11%, and Aldo Shoes saw a 5% decline. Bebe experienced a slight increase of 2%.

However, engagement on these retailers’ websites was up, with the exceptions of Payless.com and Macys.com. 

More specifically, SimilarWeb reported that Payless.com saw an increased bounce rate, while consumers were viewing the same number of pages per visit. And Macys.com visitors were viewing 0.6 fewer pages and bouncing off the site more often. Finally, AldoShoes.com visitors were viewing slightly fewer pages (0.2) and with a lower bounce rate.

Of the six sites examined, bebe.com seems to have been least affected by recent changes in the retail space, making it clear why the brand would choose to focus on its online presence now. Researchers at SimilarWeb suspect that this improvement may be attributed in part to the brand’s strong mobile presence. 

In fact, 80% of Bebe’s customers enter its website via mobile, compared to Sears, which only engages digitally through mobile 56% of the time. 

JCPenney is also doing well overall, despite decreased visits in the first quarter. The brand had improved engagement stats, showing that visitors to the site were more interested in the content offered. The brand has recently increased investments in search (mostly paid), email campaigns and display ads.

Payless.com and Macys.com seem to be significantly affected by the closure of stores and have experienced decreases in traffic and engagement. 

“To improve its situation in the market, Macy’s might consider investing further in search (both paid and organic), as well as referrals, which could provide significant traffic in this field,” Nitzan Tamari, vice president of marketing and strategy at SimilarWeb, told FierceRetail.

While Macy’s still receives a large proportion of its visits directly, it seems to be trying to improve its place through significant investments in email campaigns. Another source of traffic to be considered is increasing search traffic, primarily paid, as well as referrals.

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