M&S romford

Source: M&S

Marks & Spencer has boosted its ‘online visibility’ by 25% since last year, boosted in part by its huge success on TikTok, according to analysis by search marketing company Salience.

The increase in the retailer’s visibility metric – which Salience describes as “a little like the footfall of the internet” based on search engine presence – sees it rank second only to Tesco, which saw its visibility increase by 6% in the past 12 months.

In comparison, the online visibility of rivals Waitrose and Sainsbury’s dropped by 25% or more. Ocado slipped three places in the ranking, with a 30% fall in visibility.

Typically changes in visibility scores “at least loosely align with changes to search and social algorithms”, said Salience MD Brett Janes. But M&S’s “bounce back” from a “low point” in summer 2020 “points to their success being gained the hard way; a comprehensive digital strategy which has been consistently implemented for the past three years”.

“It would be too reductive to pin that on a particular campaign or activity,” he added. “Fairer at this point to say they’re nailing all of it.” 

Apart from M&S and Tesco, all major mults and discounters saw declines. Booths saw visibility increase by 69% – albeit from a far lower base – and Co-op by 9%.

“Booths’ visibility, for context, is just north of 1% of those at the top of the market and they were much slower to capitalise on the pandemic digital boom,” Janes told The Grocer. “Their growth in the past year, though, is still impressive.

“One effective stream of work this can be pinned to is a broad series of updates and additions to their recipe cards. Search for ‘butter pie’ to see what I mean. It looks like their strategy is at least in part, to capture awareness traffic through content around British classic recipes.”

Co-op had weathered a “turbulent time with search algorithm updates focused on content” losing significant visibility in June last year as a result of a Google update. However, it had since clawed some of it back, now ranking in seventh place ahead of Ocado, Aldi and Lidl.

“It’s a competitive space, so these erratic movements are typical,” Janes said.

Other retailers enjoying significant growth in their online visibility were Costco, British Corner Shop and Halusky.

“I always expect the unexpected in our market reports. Groceries hasn’t let me down in that regard,” Janes said.

“For M&S, Co-op and Booths to be outperforming the rest during a cost of living crisis speaks to me of some awkward mismatching of marketing budgets across the big brands this year, and also a reminder to keep marketing functioning even when we’re in a market downturn,” he added.