The Q2 2023 benchmarking report for UK convenience stores has just been published. Learn how the top 8 UK convenience stores perform across the digital space.
The Q2 2023 benchmarking report for UK convenience stores has just been published. It covers the largest 8 national convenience stores, including Premier, Spar, Budgens, One Stop, Nisa, McColl’s, Londis, and Costcutter - it highlights year-on-year digital performance, plus winner and loser comparisons in 20+ online performance metrics.
The research gives an inside track on who is winning the biggest share of voice online and quantifies the gaps, risks and missed opportunities for other convenience stores to win brand exposure locally, increase in-store footfall, and drive traffic online. The report highlights quick wins that will improve enquiries from your online strategy and identifies the barriers that may be reducing your site’s ability to optimise digital performance.
To see a preview and contents page of the Q2 report, click here. To get a copy of the full report and the key takeaways, please complete the enquiry form or schedule a call.
What The Industry Research Report Covers
The 70+ pages of research benchmarks each brand based on 50+ metrics and indicators of successful digital strategy, including organic visibility, domain authority, paid media ads, conversion performance, technical performance, site speed, universal search, content, social ads, accessibility, and mobile performance.
Driving Optimal ROAS from Paid Media Channels
Some of the leading players in the space are high spenders on paid media channels such as Google, Bing & Facebook - but have a poor or sub-optimal conversion improvement strategy. Without an optimised, sophisticated conversion strategy that maximises the conversion rate, the return on investment is unsustainable or will under-perform. Scaling spend on paid media is not achievable unless the conversion rate delivers optimal performance in the sector. Some in the space have paid media spend levels from 30k+ per month but dedicate minimal resources and budgets to conversion testing. Given the cost per clicks on ad networks will continue to rise, we recommend spending at least 10% of your paid media budget on ongoing conversion optimisation testing schedules to ensure your paid media ROI maintains long term viability, competitive advantage, and sustainability.
Technical Website Compliance
Savvy digital marketers know that having a technically sound website is an essential component of a successful fully integrated digital strategy - plus a site capable of maximising conversion performance. For convenience stores, they'll want to take particular care that key pages, such as store locators, are clearly sign-posted.
Compared to many sectors we operate in, convenience stores have well-maintained, error-free websites that indicate ease of use for customers. Though One Stop have the most 4xx errors of any convenience store, we still only found 16. This is not a cause for concern, though One Stop should still review where these dead ends are, to avoid losing any conversions.
Site Speed & Conversion Rate Performance
When 62% of consumers are less likely to convert if they have a negative mobile site experience, ensuring that your site is quick and easy to load makes a significant improvement on your overall conversion rates. Convenience store customers will often be visiting sites on the go, looking for nearby branches that they can immediately visit. Therefore an optimal mobile page experience is essential for giving a good impression of the brand.
In our last report, we noted that McColl's had reached a mobile page speed score of 90 - the highest score we have seen from a brand in any sector! Unfortunately, McColl's have now dropped to a score of 38, placing them short of even an 'okay' page speed score. The team at McColl's should review what changes were made since our last report, and ensure that form is not taking priority over function!
Building Competitive Advantage with Domain Authority
Domain authority is an essential metric for measuring the effectiveness of SEO performance, and helps create a reliable overall gauge of how effective your site is at achieving organic traffic, ie. ‘free’ traffic that isn’t gained through sponsored ads. With a range of products on offer, convenience stores should be able to create digital PR campaigns spanning multiple content themes, giving them a range of opportunities to build authority.
Domain authority is considered average between 40 and 50, good between 50 and 60, and excellent above 60. ‘Good’ DA score depends on the competition level of the industry. However, a ‘good’ DA really comes down to how your competitors are performing. We've seen very little change in DA scores throughout our reports on convenience stores, with Nisa recording the top score of 64 and McColl's scoring the lowest score of 45. Though 45 is a respectable score, McColl's should review their digital PR strategy to push themselves into the 'good' score bracket, and catch up with competitors.
Organic Performance – Mobile & Desktop
A strong organic performance is strategically important as it ensures your site ranks above competitors for key, transactional keywords. When 93% of your customers won’t go past the first page of Google, your absence or lack of targeting for essential keywords will cost you conversions. Due to the cost-of-living crisis, we're seeing that many potential customers across a number of sectors are either cutting back on expendable items, or opting for cheaper alternatives. Convenience stores may be feeling the impact of this, as their potential customers may be taking greater care to do larger shops at cheaper supermarkets, as opposed to picking up items as needed.
All convenience stores saw a decrease in mobile traffic year-on-year. However, seven brands were able to maintain growth when it came to desktop visibility. Spar were the only brand to see a reduction in organic desktop traffic year on year, losing 40% of their organic visits, up from a drop of 19% in our last report. Previously, we noted that this drop in visibility was not coming from a reduction in performance on target keywords (with Spar maintaining their rankings) but a drop in search volume for this target list. As with our last report, we would recommend Spar reassess their keyword strategy to identify high-traffic keywords with good conversion potential.
Universal Search Opportunity
Google Universal Search Results is an evolving opportunity to make your pages visible on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Universal results often appear before traditional listings and are eye-catching for users. Universal search results refer to rankings on a SERP that are not the traditional ‘blue line’ Google link, and a brand can appear for universal search results without being strong in standard rankings. For convenience stores, they'll want to ensure they're appearing for 'Local Pack' results, ensuring they are prominent when potential customers are looking for a nearby shop.
Spar remain ahead regarding Universal Search results, and have made 1,100 'Local Pack' appearances (good news for securing local customers!). One Stop have been showing gradual improvement in 'People Also Ask' results throughout our three reports, growing from 165, to 322, to 405 in our latest review. 'People Also Ask' results are an opportunity to appear for recipe or product-specific questions, and is an important result to remain strong in, to avoid losing ground to competitors.
The Longtail Keyword Opportunity
Longtail keywords are often considered high intent and potentially more likely to convert as a searcher is being more specific. Optimising for longtail keywords also puts your content strategy in a strong position to rank for brand-new search terms as they enter Google’s index. For convenience stores, long-tail keywords could be focused on specific products that potential customers are looking for, and a strong performance here could see quick visits from local customers needing a last-minute ingredient or essential item.
In our last report, we noted that Costcutter had improved from appearing for no long-tail keywords in the top three positions, to appearing for 66. Costcutter have now improved this further, securing a top-three position for 74 long-tail keywords, with a further 37 in positions 4-10 and 213 in positions 11-20. This incremental change points to positive steps being made by the Costcutter team, now appearing in the top three for only 44 keywords fewer than their next closest competitor, Budgens.
With the number of Facebook users in the United Kingdom (UK) forecast to hit over 42 million users by 2022, it is not surprising that companies have jumped at the opportunity to advertise on the social media platform. Facebook’s UK digital advertising revenue has been estimated to have breached 2.6b GB pounds in 2019. For convenience stores, they can use Facebook adverts to drive awareness of deals or sales events, or use local targeting to improve brand awareness in areas that footfall is low.
We've included examples of McColl's recent Facebook adverts below. McColl's have used Facebook ads to drive awareness of the change in branding in key areas. This has the dual purpose of improving brand awareness, and answering potential questions customers may have about the merger with Morrisons. Additionally, they've used Facebook to drive awareness of their collaboration with Patch Plants and Inch's cider, emphasising the partnership with two attractive brands, that they will no doubt have adjusted their audience targeting to fit with.
Top Social Shares & Content
When it comes to social media and on-site content strategies, it is important to release content that has a longer shelf life. An article is considered 'Evergreen' if it has maintained its relevancy to an audience for longer. It's great for your brand engagement, but great for Google too, who will recognise content which achieves traffic over a long period of time. As we've mentioned previously, convenience stores can create content supporting any of their product lines, whether that's through recipe content, household cleaning items, or seasonal ranges.
Social media is a great way for convenience stores to remain top of mind for potential customers, and maintain brand awareness. Despite this, Meta's Facebook and Instagram platforms seem underused in the sector. Only half of the convenience store brands we reviewed were recording significant levels of activity on social media, with Budgens leading the way on Facebook engagement with 244,400 likes. Other brands should be reviewing whether social media content is an effective avenue for driving awareness and footfall.
Website Readability & Accessibility
20% of people in the UK have a disability – 2 million of which are people living with sight loss. In addition, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have some degree of colour vision deficiency. When websites are not designed to meet these needs, brands lose customer interest as they turn elsewhere. Convenience stores will want to ensure a 'convenient' brand experience for all potential customers, at any digital (or in-store) touchpoint.
In our last report, we noted that Nisa had seen an increase in site errors, from 76 in Q2 2022, to 99 in Q3. A year on from our first report, Nisa have reduced this figure to just 8. However, Nisa are still recording 58 site alerts. These could be down to unnecessary alt text, or incorrect heading hierarcys, but could potentially cause barriers for users using screen readers to access their site.
Q2 2023 Winners and Losers Summary
For a glance into just 6 of the metrics we evaluated these top 8 convenience stores on, check out our quick-look table below;
GET THE FULL 79-PAGE Q2 2023 REPORT
To get a copy of the full report, please complete the enquiry form. If you want to talk to us about accelerating your digital performance, please call us on 01543 410014 or schedule a call with Mike Movassaghi.