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Burberry has been dethroned as the most digital brand in L2 Inc.’s Digital IQ Index for fashion — and replaced by Gucci and Coach, which tied for the top spot.

This story first appeared in the December 12, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

After nabbing the number-one ranking in the study for three years, Burberry dropped down to sixth place. An early adopter of all things online — from live-streams, to social media to omnichannel investments — L2 founder and New York University marketing professor Scott Galloway said Burberry has grown less innovative recently.

Burberry’s strategy has been largely driven by brand-building programs like Art of the Trench, which have garnered a ton of buzz, but the brand is still lagging when it comes to omnichannel initiatives. Galloway said Burberry’s pick up in-store functionality isn’t a true omnichannel experience, as it doesn’t operate in real time or allow customers to see what inventory is available at retail locations. The brand has a buy-online-and-pick-up-next-day-in-store option and a same-day delivery pilot is taking place in London.

“Effectively, they have been the perennial leader in the space and they continue to innovate, but the [industrywide] pace of innovation has ramped up dramatically,” said Maureen Mullen, L2 director of research and advisory. However, she did credit Burberry’s new mobile site as being one of the strongest within fashion and mobile right now.

Burberry declined to comment on the L2 study.

Gucci and Coach were tied for the lead spot in the sixth-annual study ranking fashion brands according to their online competence. Ninety brands were classified as either “genius,” “gifted,” “average,” “challenged” or “feeble” based on their Web site and e-commerce, digital marketing, mobile offering and social media. Rounding out the top 10 were Tory Burch, Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade, Diane von Furstenberg, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Michael Kors (the latter two tied for ninth place).

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“Inventory visibility is the single biggest investment you can make to drive foot traffic to your stores. If you can show consumers what product is available, the likelihood they will go to the store is 42 percent,” said Mullen, noting the likelihood of that customer going to the store if they can’t see what product is available drops to 18 percent. Mullen cited Coach as the leader in this space. Along with Gucci, the two have “find in-store” and inventory capabilities on product detail pages on their respective Web sites.

David Duplantis, president of global digital and customer experience at Coach, said the brand implemented omnichannel functionalities on coach.com in 2009. Placing an order online and picking up in store has been an e-commerce option for half a decade, and online shoppers can also search for a product on the site and see which stores in their area have it in stock. There are preorder capabilities online, too, and even the ability to build a wish list that can be pulled up by a sales associate in-store (and vice versa).

“We create consistent Web experiences whenever and wherever they choose to engage. Whether it’s preorder, Web-store-pickup, Web returns in-store or 24-hour customer assistance on and off-line, that’s the headline around omnichannel,” Duplantis said.

The two leading companies have focused heavily on their mobile experiences, dating as far back as six years ago. Coach adheres to a tablet-first Web experience and more than half of its Web traffic comes from smartphones and tablets.

Galloway and Mullen identified Gucci as a mobile-first brand, as it was among the first to develop an app and continues to heavily invest in its mobile experience — the fastest-growing commerce channel for the brand. The luxury fashion house is a leader in digital advertising, too, commanding a higher share of voice there than any other brand in the study.

“We don’t shout from the rooftops about what we’re doing,” Robert Triefus, chief marketing officer at Gucci, told WWD of the brand’s digital efforts. “We were the first luxury brand to launch an app, which we did back in 2008. It still exists and thrives.”

Gucci’s mobile-enabled site bowed in December 2012, and mobile now represents 60 percent of all online traffic, up from 44 percent last year. Triefus said the brand places enormous emphasis on its presence online — dating back to the launch of an e-commerce site in 2002. He said there was still a “great deal of cynicism” when it came to luxury brands establishing their online footprint at this time. The brand forged ahead and manages and controls its own site and e-commerce channel entirely, from back-end to front-end to distribution. The study also compared the digital investments at companies with a portfolio of luxury brands, such as Gucci parent Kering and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

“Kering is adding value at a corporate level, making enterprise-wide investments across its portfolio that raise the digital IQ of the entire portfolio,” L2’s Galloway said. “For LVMH, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. The average digital IQ is low and worse, the standard deviation between brands is huge. With respect to digital, you’re on your own.”

Data reflected that between 2012 and 2013, the six Kering brands (with the exception of Gucci) that rolled out on the Yoox e-commerce platform have seen 30 percent higher performance than their LVMH counterparts. Kering also performs about 18 digital IQ points higher than LVMH.

When it comes to parent companies, though, PVH Corp. is the clear leader (Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger share a technology platform and are both in the top 10).

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