How Retailers Can Swim Against the PPC Tide

Lorna Rose Gill Posted by Lorna Rose Gill

womans feet in a tropical sea

You might think swimwear sales peak over the summer, but does the evidence reflect that? And if the pattern shows something else happening, are retailers making the most of the trends with their PPC campaigns? With the help of the Adthena tool, we took a look at the evidence to find out who was lengths ahead.

Is swimwear just for summer?

When you think of summer, there are a few images that spring to mind – the smell of a barbecue sizzling away, the clink of glasses in a crowded beer garden, and the excitement of jetting off for a holiday in the sun. For lots of British families, a summer holiday means somewhere hot, with Spain, the Balearic Islands, the Algarve and Greece among the top destinations for UK holidaymakers.

Of course, where there’s sun, there’s often sea, or at least a pool, and that means swimming. While swimming can be a year-round exercise if you live near a well-equipped gym or leisure centre, for many people, a summer holiday might be the one time of year that they dig out their swimsuits and swimming trunks from the back of the cupboard. We decided to take a look at the market for swimwear and see if the data bears this out, and if retailers are paying attention in their PPC campaigns.

[lightbox rel=”group1″ width=”860″ href=”×357.jpg” title=”Google Trends chart showing popularity of searches for swimwear terms” src=”×357.jpg”][/lightbox]

As we can see, the general theory, that searches for swimwear are at their highest during the summer months, holds true, with the top period peaking at the beginning of June and running into July – just when people are typically getting ready for their summer holidays and perhaps looking to pick up some a new pair of swim shorts to really stand out on the beach.

However, what also stands out is the sharp rise in searches for swimwear at the very beginning of the year, with searches leaping up throughout January and hitting an early peak at the start of February. Perhaps people are escaping the coldest and wettest time of year in favour of some winter sun – but more likely, is that people are attempting to shed the extra pounds that come with Christmas indulgence and stick to the good intentions of their New Year’s Resolutions of getting out and doing some exercise. If people are going to hit the gym, they need to be appropriately attired, so it makes sense that people might take advantage of a time when retailers are normally having sales, to snap up some snazzy swimwear for their new hobby.

The other thing that pops out is a peak that crops up in mid-April, after people have caught the exercise bug alongside their New Year’s Resolution, but before you might think people would start shopping for their summer holidays. Is there an explanation? Well, one reason  could be the Easter holidays, when children have two weeks away from school and parents might be looking for a tiring activity, like swimming, to keep them occupied. For another explanation, we can look at the weather for April this year, where we find that it was the sunniest April since records began in 1929.

[lightbox rel=”group1″ width=”860″ href=”” title=”Image of the sunny UK during April, via the Met Office” src=””][/lightbox]

With children off school and gardens and parks all baking under an unseasonable amount of sun, it makes sense that swimming gear would suddenly be on the shopping agenda.

Where are retailers diving in?

So, did retailers manage to keep pace with demand and put themselves in a position to be top of the SERPs when customers went diving for swimwear?

[lightbox rel=”group1″ width=”860″ href=”×417.jpg” title=”Trend chart from Adthena showing retailer Share of Voice for swimwear terms” src=”×417.jpg”][/lightbox]

This trend report, taken from Adthena’s unique competitive search intelligence tool, shows some of the top retailers bidding on the search terms swimsuits, swim shorts, swimming trunks and swimwear.

As we can see, specialist underwear and swimwear retailer Figleaves is the biggest player for nearly the whole of the year, taking around a third of the paid Share of Voice (SOV) for the swimwear-related search terms throughout the second half of 2014.

However, something interesting happens when that New Year’s Resolution spike kicks in – after a strong start, Figleaves suddenly drops out of first position, with Simply Be and Swimwear 365 taking over as the top advertisers on the terms. The two brands clearly anticipated the post-Christmas rush to buy swimwear, and stepped up their campaigns, managing to muscle out a previously-dominant business.

While their campaigns for the start of the year might have paid off, it seems that Simply Be and Swimwear 365 didn’t have any more long terms plans, as they soon began to slip back to their average position, with Figleaves staying in its lane and resuming its run on top. Then, when the unexpected sunshine of April arises, it’s not Simply Be or Swimwear 365 that capitalises on it – it’s high street department store Debenhams which begins to climb the heap, seeing strong growth in its SOV as Figleaves falls away. This indicates that Debenhams were being smart with their data, noticing an uptick in searches and targeting their energies onto the growing opportunity, making hay while the sun shines.


It’s easy to make an assumption about a market and design a simple campaign to work alongside it. However, if advertisers really want to make the most of the opportunities out there, they have to play a cleverer game, and use all the data available to them to make sure they’re staying responsive and optimising their PPC budget. A tool like Adthena, which shows marketers their entire keyword landscape and the actions of their competitors, means that you can always be on top of the shifting market. Figleaves had a strong presence, but the predictive skills of Simply Be and Swimwear 365 ate away at their success, as did the quick adjustments of Debenhams. If Figleaves used Adthena, it could see where its competitors were gaining ground and what ads they were using to do so, and reacted accordingly. If you want to take the plunge into competitive intelligence, contact Adthena about a demo, and learn how we can help your PPC campaigns go swimmingly.

About the author

Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna is responsible for acquisition marketing at Adthena, communicating their award-winning product and generating demand. She has developed her career in fast-paced, start-up environments, including two tech track 100 companies. She is curious and passionate and likes to find stories in data and technology.