On March 23rd 2020, the government’s lockdown measures saw all non-essential stores close indefinitely. Although essential, the move has significantly impacted the sales performance of these businesses, essentially removing an entire revenue stream.
Thankfully, many of these brands have an ecommerce presence, so they can continue to operate online – but there are some exceptions.
For years, Primark has resisted the switch to digital. While the brand does have a website, it is non-transactional, with the exception of purchasing gift cards. The decision may drive the brand’s loyal customers to its high street stores but when the high street is closed as it is now, sales are significantly affected.
A recent report by the BBC states that Primark’s sales have fallen from £650 million per month to absolutely nothing. Naturally, such a dramatic drop in revenue begs the question; is now the time for Primark to fully embrace ecommerce?
In this blog post, AGY47 looks at the current and potential performance of Primark’s UK website, and weighs up their options for making the leap to digital.
Primark UK: The Current Situation
As we mentioned, the current Primark website is non-transactional, although users can purchase gift cards online. The site allows users to browse the range of womens, mens, kids, baby, homeware and beauty products.
Even without ecommerce functionality, the brand still receives an estimated monthly traffic of 755,000 visitors per month, according to SEO analysis tool Ahrefs.
Currently, the site ranks for 155,000 unique keywords, however it is heavily reliant on brand keywords. The current split is 124,696 brand keywords to 30,303 non-brand keywords (80.4% vs 19.6%).
Top-ranking brand keywords include:
Top non-brand keywords include:
The sum of all branded keywords carry considerable search volume for Primark, totalling 2,556,780 searches on average per month. With many of these related to specific products (e.g. 6.9k searches for ‘Primark suitcases’), the brand is clearly a popular choice with many consumers.
Breaking this down into traffic, we can see that brand keywords are responsible for 98% of monthly traffic, equating to around 738,522 sessions. Non-brand keywords only make up for 2%, roughly 16,478 sessions.
There is huge scope for Primark to improve its rankings for non-brand keywords. For example, the site currently ranks on page two for the top three non-brand keywords it ranks for. Despite these three keywords having a total average monthly search volume of 58,200, the site gets just an estimated 392 sessions per month from them.
With just 2% of traffic to the site from non-branded searches, a content plan to improve existing keyword rankings and rankings for additional relevant keywords would be beneficial, especially if the brand was to seriously consider offering online shopping.
Primark’s Potential Online Revenue
If Primark was to open an ecommerce store, what would their potential revenue look like? Of course, we don’t have a conversion rate or average order value (AOV) for Primark. To calculate a potential online revenue, we have looked at what could be one of Primark’s closest ecommerce competitors: Boohoo Group.
Boohoo Group operates brands including boohoo, PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal, all of which operate in the same fast fashion niche as Primark. In the most recent figures, Boohoo Group reported an AOV of £43.50 and an average conversion rate of 4.26%.
Assuming that Primark would have similar credentials, 32,163 sessions of Primark’s 755,000 total organic traffic could end in a conversion. This would mean as the site stands now, the brand could be making £1,399,090.5 per month in organic revenue.
Alternatively, if we take the higher 1,672,540 estimated monthly visitors to the site as predicted by SimilarWeb, this revenue figure could stand at £3,099,375 per month.
Of course, this is based on Boohoo Group’s performance. Given the demand around Primark, the launch of an ecommerce store could not only see traffic to the site increase significantly, but the conversion rate could also be a lot higher initially. This is especially true if the brand was to launch ecommerce capabilities during the lockdown period.
We have already witnessed the buzz that can be generated around Primark launching an online store. On October 14th 2019, a story circulated of Primark allowing customers to shop online, which was featured on sites like Mirror, The Sun, Metro and many regional news sites.
In reality, this wasn’t an official Primark ecommerce store, but third party retailers selling Primark items for inflated prices on Amazon – something the brand advised customers against buying. However, this does exemplify the PR opportunity that an official launch could bring, which could help strengthen the domain and improve rankings over time.
Examining The Demand For Primark Online
There is a huge demand for a Primark ecommerce store all year round. There are 19,000 searches for ‘Primark online shopping’, 20,000 searches for ‘Primark online’ and 8,400 searches for ‘Primark online shop’ on average each month.
This has only been fuelled further by the closure of Primark stores under lockdown measures. The below graph shows search interest in ‘Primark online’ – notice the increase from March 23rd:
However, in contrast, search interest in ‘Primark’ – which receives approximately 1,240,000 searches per month – has decreased since the lockdown. This suggests that when stores are open, users are searching online to browse the range before they buy and finding store information. Once the stores were closed, there was a definitive shift in users looking to buy online instead.
Where Are Primark’s Customers Shopping Now?
There is a clear demand for Primark products online. By not having an ecommerce store, the brand is not able to meet this demand and as such, their customers are shopping elsewhere. The following graph of search interest in Primark, H&M, Boohoo and New Look illustrates this in more detail:
Up until the first day of lockdown (March 24th), all four competitors had a similar search interest, with Primark experiencing some of the highest peaks. After high streets stores closed, we can see that interest in the brands with an ecommerce presence went from strength to strength.
Interest in Primark dropped dramatically and has remained relatively flat for the duration of lockdown, while high street brands New Look and H&M have seen search interest remain steady or even increase. This suggests that customers who would usually shop at Primark in-store are now shopping online through the brand’s competitors.
This is further strengthened when we look at related searches. In the past 30 days, people who search for ‘Primark’ have also searched for other online retailers. This has led to a 130% increase in searches for ‘ASOS’, an 80% increase in searches for ‘H&M UK’ and 40% growth in searches for New Look. Now that they can’t shop in-store at Primark, these customers are looking for an online alternative.
The Counter Arguments
Since the report of Primark’s sales falling to zero, some have taken to social media to provide counter arguments as to why an online store wouldn’t work for a brand like Primark, given their low price points. In fact, the brand itself is on record saying that offering home delivery would make them unable to keep their clothing prices low.
However, ecommerce is a model that works for so many other fast fashion retailers, plus there are measures that can be put in place to combat the financial impact of home delivery. For example, setting a minimum order size for delivery or introducing a threshold for free delivery, such as ‘Free delivery over £50’.
Online operations can offer a lifeline to brands, especially during the difficult times we’re currently experiencing. Primark’s sales have ground to a halt, while their competitors are continuing to trade and in some cases, thrive.
It remains to be seen whether Primark will offer online shopping in the future. While there is a lot to consider, it seems the rewards significantly outweigh the risks.