Looking at the average monthly traffic of the top ath-leisure brands revealed growth rates during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that far surpassed gains seen during traditional peak times such as the holiday shopping season.

And the secret sauce helping to drive traffic is paid search.

In an “insights report” by SimilarWeb released this week, the firm said the top 10 ath-leisure sites collectively experienced a 52 percent year-over-year gain in traffic between March and July as consumers stayed home and shopped online due to the pandemic. To compile a list of the top brands, the firm looked at year-over-year growth rates during the March to July period.

Alo Yoga took the top spot with 548,000 average monthly visits that jumped 131.5 percent. In second place was Vuori Clothing with 360,000 visits and a growth rate of 93 percent. Nike came in third with 568,000 visits and a 92.7 percent gain. YogaOutlet ranked fourth, and was followed by Fabletics, Lululemon, Beyond Yoga and Outdoor Voices. Ninth was Gymshark, with Public Rec rounding out the top 10.

Jamie Drayton, lead financial services and retail consultant at SimilarWeb, authored the report and said when looking deeper into the numbers of Lululemon, for example, site traffic success strategies include paid search.

“When we analyze the top three marketing channels that drive traffic to, we see increased consumer interest, coupled with paid acquisition efforts,” Drayton said in the report. “This is something we see time and time again for sites that make our fastest-growing lists. Yes, consumer demand is driving traffic, but what separates good from great is the know-how to double down on paid search.”

Drayton said site traffic via organic search on showed year-over-year growth pf 54.6 percent while the direct channel grew 62.7 percent by bringing in an additional 6 million visits year-over-year. “Paid search [up 72.9 percent] accounted for an additional 1 million clicks but saw the greatest growth,” Drayton said. “Lululemon was not only in the right place at the right time, but it also aggressively pursues potential customers who show interest in its products.”

SimilarWeb noted in the report that Nike is also driving traffic by augmenting organic with paid search. Drayton said in the case of Fabletics, the brand is taking “a unique approach to push shoppers down the funnel by requiring users to create an account after landing on the site — often before being able to view products for sale.”

“So far, this unique strategy is paying off,” Drayton said. “Fabletics shoppers are half as likely to visit Lululemon as their fast approaching competitor: Gymshark. Competing with an industry leader like Lululemon requires thinking outside of the box. Fabletics is separating itself from the pack by leading consumers into their shopping ecosystem immediately, de-incentivizing cross-buying behavior, establishing trust and encouraging a sale.”

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