The study by digital think tank L2 and Facebook marketing firm Buddy Media evaluated retailers across four platforms: Web site, digital marketing, social media and mobile.
Based on those benchmarks, brands are assigned "IQ scores" from over 140 to under 70 that equate to ratings, including "genius," "gifted," "average," "challenged" or "feeble." The digital IQ Index created by L2 scores companies against 350 qualitative and quantitative individual data points.
In contrast to the mostly auto and beauty brands at the top of the list, those in the jewelry and watch category had the lowest average scores.
While 37% of the brands in the index were classified as gifted, only Macy's, Victoria's Secret and Nordstrom earned the genius distinction. Other top retailers included Bluefly, Bloomingdales, Gilt Groupe, Net-A-Porter and Pottery Barn. Department stores as a category performed well across the board, the study found.
Among other key findings, L2 said having a Facebook presence has become table stakes in social media, since every brand has put up its own fan page. But there remains a significant opportunity to monetize Facebook communities, given that only four brands developed fully functional Facebook storefronts.
Victoria's Secret is the most popular brand in terms of Facebook fans, with almost 14.5 million. Abercrombie & Fitch is a distant second, with about 5 million, followed by Ralph Lauren (3.4 million), Coach (2.1 million), and Bath & Body Works (2 million).
When it comes to mobile for retailers, it's all about the iPhone and iPad. Despite Android's rapid expansion, only 5% of the companies covered in the study have released apps designed for the Google smartphone platform. More than two-thirds (67%) have mobile sites, almost triple the total from 2010. Near nine in 10 are e-commerce-enabled.
The research overall suggested that brands allocating resources toward digital see higher returns.
"In Q1 2011, e-commerce grew more than twice the pace of overall retail," stated L2 founder and NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway. "Digital competence and mastery of mobile and social platforms will likely result in a bifurcation in retail between the haves (digitally competent) and have-nots (digitally challenged)."
A separate study by L2 and Buddy Media in June ranked the top 100 luxury brands on Facebook, with BMW, Clinique and Audi coming out on top. That research judged brands based on four criteria: size and growth of Facebook community, engagement, content, and integration across other online platforms.