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The Digital Outdoors Industry Tracker

The Digital Outdoors Industry Tracker

Resonant Adds Website Audit Scores for Outdoor Gear Brands and Retailers to Monthly Index

Female walker in alpine snow

Following the launch of the Google Search Visibility Index a few days ago, Website Audit Scores have now joined Resonant’s data sets from its DCrux database. This publicly-available series will be reported monthly and is intended to provide the outdoor equipment industry with a robust, consistent and independent assessment of the relative strength of retailer and brand websites over time.

Like the Search Visibility Index, the Website Audit Scores will offer retailers and brands a comparative and agnostic view of the digital side of the sector that simply hasn’t been available to date. With the increasing importance of ecommerce, digital brand communication and data-driven decisions, it’s crucial to be able to access an independent set of benchmarks that are not centred on the requirements of a particular client or organisational interest.

How Does the Website Score Work?

Some readers will be familiar with companies that offer or even send unsolicited ‘audits’ in an attempt to sell you website upgrades or SEO services. These scores are very different and use a very deep and broad set of indicators that combine the good, the bad and the ugly of a website’s platform, technical implementation, content and user experience. It also take into account the changing requirements placed on websites over time, such as smartphone performance.

It’s the same system that Resonant has used for a number of years for large ecommerce clients (although they obviously get the benefit of very detailed breakdowns of their strengths and weaknesses).

This overarching view of a website’s performance explains why, in an extreme example, Go Outdoors can appear strongly in the Search Visibility Index, but perform less well in the Website Scores - they are very good at SEO, but have issues in other areas that normally impact customer experience and ecommerce conversion rates.

Fundamentally, improvements in audit scores, especially relative to close competitors, nearly always lead to measurable improvements in performance - the trick is to improve those areas that will most contribute to your business objectives, which might be product engagement and mobile-focused stockist signposting for brand owners or intuitive navigation and fast page-loads for retailers.

Outdoors Retail Website Audit Scores - January 2019

Outdoors Brands Website Audit Scores - January 2019

Some Thoughts

Hopefully, you won’t be too surprised to learn that the outdoors sector does lag behind the standards of website technical design, build and maintenance in more digitally-centric product categories such as fashion apparel. It might be more concerning to learn that, with some exceptions (scores over 60), even big outdoors players lag behind categories such as housewares and furniture (in the latter case, over 80% of revenues are still store-based).

Any website scoring below 50 will generally exhibit problems across multiple areas and be under-performing against its potential. It also suggests that website development and maintenance is either a low priority or not as well-focused as it should be. To illustrate this, let’s take a quick look at one of the signature retailers in the index, based on an audit of 5000 pages in addition to the website as a whole.

This leading retailer’s website is visually strong, with plenty of strong graphics and product features but, underneath the bonnet, the latest audit shows why they score below many competitors. They have 258 high priority issues, a multitude of mid priority issues that are mostly simple content fixes and, in particular, significant room for improvement for smartphone users (which will represent more than 50% of their visitors).

As a final point, it’s worth noting that, whilst smaller websites and high scores don’t necessarily go together, the best performing brand site in the audits (Berghaus) carefully manages its site size to maintain control, whilst the best performing retail site (Gaynors) uses a very simply-structured CMS platform to manage lots of pages relatively easily, even if it’s not as flexible as some systems.

As the data builds over the next few months, I’ll be picking out specific areas of good and bad practice. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or questions, please get in touch.