That’s according to Internet Retailer’s just-released report series, The Best Digital Marketers in E-Commerce, which scores retailers on how effective they are across email, paid and natural search, and social media marketing channels.

Many experts will tell you that the foundation of an effective marketing strategy is a clear understanding of who your customer is—what she needs, when and why.

It’s a simple notion, particularly online where consumers leave behind digital fingerprints with every single click. But the truth is, it isn’t that simple. The new normal in online retailing is that consumers move between devices. They shop online and offline, and they don’t always move smoothly down the purchase funnel.

Internet Retailer’s just-released report series, The 2017 Best Digital Marketers in E-Commerce Series, shows that it’s the web merchants and multichannel retailers that understand their customers better than the competition that are successfully driving consumers to buy across multiple marketing channels.

This year’s winner, for example, which scored high marks on the effectiveness of its email, social and search strategies, and was determined by Internet Retailer to be the most effective marketer in online retail is Target Corp., No. 22 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide.


Target takes advantage of many of the newer online marketing tools available to web merchants, such as dynamic ads and tools that show on-the-go shoppers what inventory is available at their local store. But the retailer credits much of its success with its ability to draw heavily on the large amount of data it gathers on customers. That information comes from its stores, website and app sales, the Cartwheel coupon app, Target-branded credit cards, as well as consumers’ browsing activities via website cookies and mobile device IDs, and informs how Target allocates its digital marketing budget.

“We’re one of the lucky ones with rich first-party data,” says Kristi Argyilan, Target’s senior vice president of marketing. “That enables us to target real human beings, which helps us get greater returns than targeting audiences that rely on aggregated information to find signals of intent.”

The retailer also has broken down its marketing silos by bringing together the teams that handle various marketing channels so that everyone can examine the same data to see where the retailer needs to change its budget.

Paid search is one area where Target is particularly aggressive. It is behind only Inc. (No. 1 in the Top 500) in terms of its average monthly spend. Those dollars are well spent, Argylian says, given that paid search drives 13.5% of’s overall traffic while also contributing to in-store traffic and sales.


The just-released 174-page 2017 Best Digital Marketers in E-Commerce Series includes four downloadable PDF reports that provide exclusive rankings and analysis of the top retailers across all digital marketing channels. Readers can also select from one of three component reports in the Series: The Best Social Media Marketers in E-Commerce, Best Search Marketers in E-Commerce and Best Email Marketers in E-Commerce.

Rankings are based on Internet Retailer’s proprietary algorithm that takes into account dozens of metrics, including the traffic each retailer drives from the various marketing channels, the amount of retailers’ monthly paid search spend, how many emails they send and the size of their social networks.

Zak Stambor contributed to this report.