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The Story Of The Red Dress And The E-Commerce Christmas Battle For Sales

Once upon a time there was a woman in search of the perfect red dress for Christmas. That woman, was me. So of course, I went to Google and typed in the words ‘red dress’.

Ok, so I wasn’t actually looking for a red dress, I was conducting some research.

At this time of the year retailers are fighting it out for the coveted number one placement on Google Adwords. So I thought I would take a look at what the difference between a number one placement and a lower placement is.

Lets take a look.

So as I said, I began my quest with a simple search for a ‘red dress’. These were my results:

Online retailer ASOS came out on top followed by Debenhams. All the other retailers got placed to the right hand side.

Let’s begin by looking at the ad text.


ASOS certainly has the most compelling Ad text. “Huge range of red dresses” (good) “Free Delivery” (great) “to Ireland” (very specific!) and then a call to action “buy now”.

For the sake of this study, lets compare this to the Marks and Spencer Ad to the right.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 16.27.53

Their offer reads “free delivery to stores in two days” (hmm I could just go into the store and pick it up myself) “shop accessories online today” (but i don’t want accessories, I want a red dress!).

Basically you can see why ASOS beats Marks and Spencer on compelling ad text straight away. ASOS are tailoring their Adwords to specific items whereas Marks and Spencer’s ad is less focused and doesn’t provide me with a clear answer to my search query.

Landing Page Experience

Landing page experience is crucial to a good rating on Google Adwords. The landing page is the webpage you ‘land’ on when you click on the ad. Lets compare the different landing page experiences for the two online stores.

ASOS Landing Page:

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 15.50.52

When you click on the Ad for ASOS you are taken to a page full of red dresses in a variety of shades, shapes and styles. It’s exactly what you would expect to see.

You have easy filtering options both at the top of the page and at the side of the page. There is information on delivery times and last order dates for Christmas. The one thing is doesn’t clearly state that was detailed in the ad text is the free shipping. 

Let’s compare this to the Marks and Spencer Landing page:

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 16.31.55

When you click on the Marks and Spencer landing page the first thing you notice is that that there is just one red dress on the page. In fact there are a variety of items on the page and not all of the are dresses. Straight away that’s a point lost for relevancy.

You can choose a colour in the filtering options on the left hand side and when you do, you see that the brand actually has 25 other red dresses that you could buy but these are not displayed on the landing page.

Their filtering options are clear and they do state their shipping offer very clearly at the top of the page. However you can see why they have a lower placement when the relevancy of the page is so low.

What Happens When You Click An Item?


ASOS   ASOS The T Shirt Dress with Short Sleeve at ASOS

When you click into one of the many red dresses on ASOS you get large images of the dress, the option to zoom into the fabric and as a plus you can watch a video of the dress on a catwalk using the ‘view catwalk’ option.

The free shipping offer is made very clear and so is the price. There is a comprehensive list of the materials used and then two clear calls to action. If you are ready to make the purchase you can ‘add to bag’ or, if you are waiting for payday you can ‘save for later’. This gives ASOS two simple metrics to measure the effectiveness of their ad. 

There is also a feature to ‘buy the look’ this gives you a suggestion of shoes and accessories to buy to go with your dress which you can take straight to the check-out. There is also a suggestion of what shoes to buy to ‘complete the look’. It’s an absolute lesson in up-selling.

It’s simple to navigate back to where you came from. Finally, all the major credit cards are listed at the bottom of the page along with a security symbol. 

Marks And Spencer

Speziale Hand Embellished Fit  2  Flare Dress  M S

When you click on the red dress on the Marks and Spencer landing page you are taken to a nice clean page.

There are 3 different views of the dress and a zoom option although there is no catwalk show. There is a rating system in place although the dress has no ratings. You get a good description of the product and size guide. The ‘add to basket’ button is clear but there is no real up-sell. You do see recently viewed items to the right but these are not items I recently viewed. There is also a ‘people who bought this item also bought’ section but the items are other dresses and not the accessories you would want to buy along with the outfit.

The ASOS technique works better because they are making suggestions of items that will match your purchase.

One point of difference I did find with the M&S site is that after about five seconds on the site a pop up comes up offering you a £5 discount for entering your email address. I would love to see the results from this. It could be a greatly appreciated or viewed as a nuisance when you are trying to browse. 

Speziale Hand Embellished Fit 2  Flare Dress  M S

After   Irish News   Breaking News from Ireland

Finally, while browsing online later that day I saw an ad for one of the ASOS dresses I was looking at(although not the red version!). This is called retargeting and is a great way to win back the sale. So even though I didn’t make a purchase ASOS use retargeting to remind me of the dress as I continue to browse online.

I was also retargeted by both brands within Facebook. Here is how the ASOS retargeting in Facebook looked – Clever!


 All in all both retailers have excellent websites but in the competitive world of e-commerce, ASOS stands out as a clear winner in terms of landing page relevancy and user experience and has shown it earned it’s number one spot on Adwords.

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