The 5 best digital marketing success stories of 2015

February 26, 2016 12:26 PM

Digital ad spending among online retailers reached $12.91 billion last year—far outpacing the spend from any other industry, according to research firm eMarketer. Paid search spending among retailers ranked in the Internet Retailer Top 1000 alone reached $278.9 million per month in 2015—up 21.2% from 2014.

Of course those figures don’t account for other spending on digital marketing, including fees to marketing and consulting firms, and the significant amounts of staff time and focus online retailers spend on crafting marketing content for email campaigns or social media posts, or optimizing their sites to make them more appealing to search engine crawlers.

The time and money online retailers are spending on digital marketing are benefiting some more than others, according to the recently released 2016 Digital Marketing Report Series. The report, available as a four-part downloadable PDF, scores retailers on effectiveness in the main channels of online marketing—social media, email, and paid and natural search.

Internet Retailer factored in 36 metrics to arrive at its scores, including such data points as the percentage of site traffic a retailer attracts from the various channels, monthly paid search spend, monthly volume of emails sent to consumers, and the size and relative engagement of the merchant’s following on social networks.

Here are the merchants that ranked No. 1 in each channel, and a brief summary of how they earned that rank.

Best Email Marketer in E-Commerce: Beyond the Rack (Score: 93 out of 100)

  • Discount flash-sale retailer Beyond the Rack gets 16.2% of its website traffic from customers clicking on its email campaigns, according to web traffic measurement firm SimilarWeb. This is nearly five times the average among Top 500 retailers (which get 2.6% of their traffic from email), and is a clear sign that the content of its emails are resonating with consumers enough to make them click.
  • Beyond the Rack sends on average of 65 e-mail campaigns to new signups per month—that’s more than two per day and the eighth highest among the Top 500, according to a study conducted for Internet Retailer by email marketing firm Listrak. Clearly, the e-retailer is communicating often to customers, and that suggests the merchant places a high premium on email to drive sales.
  • Beyond the Rack has three of the four key email marketing features Internet Retailer and Listrak tracked for this report. First, the merchant’s emails are optimized for mobile devices. Second, it has a shopping cart abandonment program in place, meaning if customers are on the site, add an item to their cart then leave, the retailer will send them an email encouraging them to complete their purchase. Third, the retailer has a pop-up box on its home page that asks new website visitors for their email address.

Best Natural Search Marketer in E-Commerce: Amazon (Score: 80 out of 100)

  • Amazon dominates organic search, and the leading web retailer by sales earns its highest points in this score from the sheer number of visits per month it garners from natural search results—a number that basically blows away the competition. More than 55 million visits per month stem from organic search results, according to SimilarWeb, more than 662 times as many as the median among Top 500 retailers (84,000) and seven times as many as the second-highest number,’s 7.7 million visits per month from natural search results.
  • In an Internet Retailer analysis of Alexa Inc. data on top keyword searches and the retailers garnering the highest rankings on those searches, Amazon scored in the top five—and often No. 1—in 14 of the 15 merchandise categories tracked.

Best Paid Search Marketer in E-Commerce: The New York Times Co. (Score:  78 out of 100)

  • The New York Times Co., which sells gifts, photos and art on its online store, spent around $1.3 million monthly on paid search last year, according to estimates provided to Internet Retailer by search marketing firm AdGooroo. That’s nowhere close to the roughly $38 million Inc. spent, but it is 48 times as high as the median spend among Top 1000 retailers ($27,141) when including those that don’t invest in paid search. The merchant, therefore, earned a high score on this metric.
  • The merchant gets 19.9% of its site traffic from paid search ads, which translates to roughly 24.8 million monthly visits that stem from consumers clicking onto its site from a paid search ad—again, far ahead of the average. The scoring system tracks visits from paid search ads to retailers’ home pages, and for the New York Times Store, that happens to be That means some of those clicks may be from consumers clicking on ads with the intent of reading news, and not buying products.

Best Social Media Marketer in E-Commerce: Inc. (Score: 88 out of 100)

  • The primary reason for Amazon’s lead in social media comes its sheer size and ability to direct large volumes of shoppers onto its site from social networks, even with only modest efforts. While the merchant gets only 1.5% of its website traffic from social networks, according to SimilarWeb, that equates to roughly 14 million visits to from consumers clicking from organic or paid content on Facebook, Twitter or one of the other large social networks.
  • Those 14 million visits, Internet Retailer estimates, lead to roughly $1.32 billion in direct online sales from social networks last year—far and away the largest among retailers tracked in this report.
  • Amazon also earns high scores for its large following on Facebook—it had more than 26 million Likes as of mid-2015, the seventh highest behind such big-name brands and entertainment companies as Starbucks Corp., Discovery Channel, Wal-Mart, WWE Inc., National Basketball Association, and Victoria’s Secret.
  • Amazon’s followers are also more engaged than other retailers, and that helped its score as well. For example, on average, each post on Facebook earns more than 4,791 comments, 7,303 shares, and 213,000 Likes, according to social media measurement firm Unmetric—far ahead of other retailers tracked.  Each post on Twitter is retweeted on average 274 times.

America’s Best Marketer in E-Commerce: Wayfair LLC (Score: 69 out of 100)

  • Wayfair earned the coveted top spot in Internet Retailer’s overall ranking because it scored highly in each of the four channels tracked—email (Wayfair ranked No. 7), social media (No. 131), paid search (65) and natural search (No. 47). Internet Retailer’s overall score weighted the channels as follows given our opinion on the relative impact of each: email 30%, paid search 25%, natural search 25%, and social media 20%.

The Digital Marketing Report Series includes similar metrics on 166 retailers across the four digital marketing channels.

It also includes: 

  • Rankings of America's Best Marketers in E-Commerce
  • The 50 Best Retailers in Social Media Marketing
  • The 50 Best Retailers in Natural Search
  • The 50 Best Retailers in Paid Search
  • The 50 Best Retailers in Email Marketing

For details, pricing and more information on the 2016 Digital Marketing Report Series click here.




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