Brand Battle: Zales Vs. Kay | Street Fight


This Holiday Season Wrangled by One Jeweled Giant

Each year, jewelry is one of the top gifts that shoppers buy, and this  holiday season was, as always, a fierce battleground where jewelry stores broke out the heavy artillery to attract new customers and bring back loyal ones. While some shoppers went online to buy, many went to find local jewelry stores. Winning brands of the holiday season had their store location information readily available. But there’s more to reaching the local customer—Brandify identified five specific divisions of local marketing that put focus on branding strategies that are working, and those that aren’t. In this post-holiday Brand Battle, two of the top jewelry retailers in the U.S. went head-to-head in a match for the books, where the a typical front-runner eluded and the final winner was unexpected.

The Players

Jewelry stores Zales and Kay Jewelers finished in one of the closest rounds Brandify has ever refereed—and yet have work to do to achieve higher scores. 614 Zales locations were compared with 1,178 Kay locations, using proprietary technology to analyze key areas of local presence management.

The two jewelers faced off on a battlefield already crowded with other jewelry stores all clamoring for holiday shoppers, not to mention jewelry-loving Valentine’s Day gifters. Discount retailers and big-box bulk stores’ own efforts have been putting more pressure on jewelers, and a little scrutiny showed that neither brand has quite achieved a mobile-first strategy yet.

In this battle, 850 is the highest possible score, and Zales and Kay each barely broke 600. Both brands see fewer than 50,000 mobile visits monthly, a stat that hints of some underrepresented mobile options. Both Zales and Kay must take a fresh look at their mobile strategies to reach on-the-go shoppers:  implementing local mobile ads using location extensions and using direct locator links would be great places to start. In the end, this holiday season was a close call, the final scores only 21 points apart, awarding Kay the winner of the holidays.

The Final Scores

Zales: 603                       Kay: 624

Battle Rounds: Data Quality | Local SEO | Reviews | Local Ads | Engagement


The Battle

Kay Jewelers for the win! The 2016-2017 holiday season featured a contentious contest between two diamond-studded retailers – proving that it takes more than a pretty necklace to win the hearts of mobile-savvy shoppers.


Battle round: Data Quality

Accurate store location data is essential to beat out the competition and win the holidays.

Sparkling storefront windows and a print ad in the local newspaper aren’t enough anymore—brands must place themselves in front of the masses of shoppers who are looking online for places to go. In particular, millennials search for keywords only and the majority shop every day on mobile devices, but more than half of purchases are made online. These shoppers look for the store closest to them, and still others may take the time to read through dozens of reviews before choosing their jeweler.

Kay took an early hit from Zales in the first battle round analyzing the two brands’ location data quality. On Foursquare, 93% of Kay’s locations were not claimed*, and this neglected social media channel brought Kay’s data quality score down. Zales left only 6% of its locations unclaimed on Foursquare. But both brands’ addresses had more than 40% inaccuracies across all channels. On Google, more Zales locations were wrong. 54% of Zales’ address locations turn up on Google with inaccuracies, compared to 41% of Kay Jeweler locations.

Across all channels, Zales left only 14% of its locations unclaimed, while Kay left 47% unclaimed. At the end of this first battle round, Zales won with 80 data quality points to Kay’s 73 points.

Winner: Zales

*Locations that were “not found” were not returned in any search results. Locations that were “not claimed” were returned in search results, but data about the location such as phone number and address could be incorrect or missing.


Battle round: Local SEO

Jewelry shoppers are especially likely to research online before buying, and brands must prepare local SEO strategies to reach them before they buy.

Shoppers looking for high-priced items such as jewelry will often research online prior to buying, according to a Nielsen report that showed a majority of surveyed consumers investigated online before making a purchase. Between local and corporate web pages, online map locators, and local advertising, brands must ensure their company names appear in search results.

Kay hit back hard at Zales in this second battle round which analyzed the two brands’ local SEO strategies. Brandify looked at search results for the keywords “holiday jewelry gift,” “engagement ring,” and “diamond necklace,” and 88% of Zales’ locations did not turn up at all, a disastrous outcome for a brand that must venture into mobile advertising to reach new customers. 45% of Kay locations did not show up for the same keywords on Google and Bing, but Kay Jewelers’ performance improved with the keyword “engagement.” On Google, 78% of Kay Jewelers locations showed up as the first, second, or third result on search engine results pages (SERPs) for the search term “engagement,” while only 5% of Zales locations showed up.

On Bing local search, both brands showed inadequate planning and action for the holiday competition. Kay performed slightly better, with 25% of its store locations on Bing ranking in the top three results positions. Zales trailed far behind with just 3% of its locations ranking in the top three spots. For local SEO, Kay won easily with a final score of 57 to Zales’ score of 37.

Winner: Kay


Battle round: Reviews

Diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls: Gems and other higher-priced jewelry often mean customers will go out of their way to learn what other shoppers think, before buying.

With jewelry shoppers highly likely to research price, quality, and services, the reviews battle round is one that brands must not underestimate. Shoppers may do a quick mobile search while waiting for a friend or in line at the bank, and one of the fastest indicators of brand satisfaction is the number of stars. Customers doing more in-depth research will often read reviews, searching for certain keywords that relate to what they are shopping for, or searching for specific price points and services.  

Brandify inspected reviews for both Zales and Kay Jewelers between June and November 2016, and found that the brands are each within reach of each other for four- and five-star reviews. Zales garnered 52% four- and five-star reviews compared to 45% of Kay reviews. Both brands also have more than 50% positive sentiment for the keywords “service” and “experience,” but negative customer sentiment overall still plagues both Zales and Kay.

56% of Zales reviews show negative sentiment, and for the keyword “diamond,” Zales reviews show 78% negative sentiment. Kay performed even worse for reviews with the keyword “diamond,” with 86% negative sentiment. For the keyword “jewelry,” both brands have reviews with more than 50% negative sentiment.

Kay inched slightly ahead of the competition in this battle round, looking for the finish line to win this holiday season with double the points of Zales: 8 to 4.

Winner: Kay


Battle round: Local Ads

A Brand Battle legacy: Never skip the local-specific advertising plan in favor of general ads!

January and February, when shoppers search for special post-holiday deals or plan for a special event (hello, Valentine’s Day engagements!), are essential months for brands to have perfected their local advertising games. A strategy that targets local customers and local search helps focus messaging, and knowledge about local traditions and trends may have helped Zales tie up with Kay in the local ads battle round.

Brandify found that both Zales and Kay join several other brands in the serious oversight of not paying for any local advertising for individual stores. That earned both brands zero points for their local advertising plans, made worse by each overlooking the option to use location extensions in general advertising.

However, Zales spends more than $100,000 per month targeting 7,000 keywords on mobile and desktop, winning them the local ads round.  Zales’ mobile traffic is four times Kay’s; Kay spends about $90,000 monthly on mobile and desktop, but only targets 3,000 keywords. This is especially notable for Zales because it has fewer locations. Zales invests more of its advertising budget in fewer locations than Kay does to more locations, meaning Zales has significantly more opportunity to experiment with local targeting.

Winner: Zales


Battle round: Engagement

Mobile search provides shoppers the opportunity to connect with brands personally, and a local engagement policy is imperative – especially for those hoping to “engage” a paramour this winter!

Decades-old brands—especially jewelers—may have more options to attract repeat customers. But engagement is a local branding strategy that must be taken seriously, especially in the age of online shopping and big-box stores, where shoppers have the option to buy sparkling adornments from the comfort of their couch, or at a steep discount from membership stores such as Sam’s Club or Costco (check out the Wholesale Clubs Brand Battle!).

The final engagement score was 28 to 17, winner: Kay. Kay posted more updates to social media than Zales, leading to more engagement with customers and more amplification as followers responded with likes, hearts, laughs, and shares. Per location, Kay saw 68 average customer check-ins, compared to only 37 at Zales locations. On Facebook and Foursquare, Kay had almost two and a half times more check-ins than Zales locations.

Between social media check-ins and more original posts on social media in the peak of holiday season, Kay’s level of engagement gave it an edge that ultimately helped it win the 2016-2017 winter shopping season.

Winner: Kay


Brand Battle Winner: Kay

Brandify’s Recommendations for Zales

  1. CLAIM LOCAL YELP PAGES: With 80% of Zales location profile pages missing on Yelp, the brand is missing a huge percentage of shoppers who use the Yelp app on mobile and the site on desktop to help them research potential purchases.
  2. FOCUS ON ADDRESS DATA QUALITY: Zales locations have a 54% inaccuracy rate on Google and 41% on Bing. In marketing, each and every customer matters, and a customer who is sent to the wrong address may experience frustration, manifesting poor reviews, references, and that customer might even take business to the competition.
  3. UTILIZE SEASONAL OPPORTUNITIES: Only 1% of Zales locations rank in the first, second, or third result on SERPs for the keyword term “holiday jewelry gift.” Zales must implement seasonal sales keywords to attract holiday shoppers in time.
  4. BE DILIGENT WITH MOBILE: On mobile, Zales’ store locator did not work when Brandify analyzed the brand’s mobile strategies. A bug in the code for a mobile app can be easily overlooked, and Zales staff must take the time to click each link and ensure accuracy, especially for the mobile version of the brand’s locator.

Brandify’s Recommendations for Kay

  1. FOCUS ON MOBILE! Kay Jewelers is headed in the right direction with a mobile version of its store locator, but its “use my location” feature didn’t work during the pre-holiday season to show store locations nearby. Further hindering customers reaching the brand’s stores, the mobile “click to call” option failed to fire during Brandify’s tests. This brand must adopt a mobile strategy to reach more potential customers.
  2. INVEST IN ADVERTISING: Especially on mobile, Kay Jewelers must invest more money in mobile and desktop advertising to increase the gap it holds over its competition.

The battle was scored using Brandify’s Social Data Matching (SDM) technology with data from various channels,* including Google, Bing, Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare. Data was entered into the Brandify analytics engine to test the two companies’ local digital marketing footprint to determine a final Brandscore for each. The Brandscore is calculated with an algorithm consisting of more than 250 variables over 5 core location-based areas: Data Quality, Local SEO, Reviews, Social Engagement, and Local Advertising.

Street Fight and Brandify will publish a new Brand Battle each month.

*Other channel sources included in this analysis: Yellow Pages, MerchantCircle, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

More Brand Battles

About BrandifyBrandify-Logo

Brandify is transforming the way businesses connect to consumers by leveraging location technology and offering unrivaled personal service. Brandify has helped hundreds of brands understand and improve their local presence. Current and past clients include True Value, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Applebee’s, Black & Decker, and more. For more information about Brandify, go to